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Common Cold (Upper Respiratory Infection)

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The infection known as the common cold is actually a viral infection that occurs within the upper respiratory tract. The common cold is typically harmless, though the symptoms can be hard to deal with at the time. There are situations where the common cold can unfold into something more serious, however, especially in people who are susceptible to illness or who have compromised immune systems. Most people will recover from the symptoms of a common cold within one to two weeks following the first sign of symptoms, though for some people the symptoms can last a lot longer.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Common Cold

There are more than 100 different viruses that can cause the common cold, but the most common virus responsible for the common cold is rhinovirus, which is a highly contagious viral infection. The cold virus enters into the body through the mouth, the nose or the eyes. The virus can spread by various means, typically when droplets are spread into the air by coughing, sneezing or talking, or by shared contaminated objects such as eating utensils, telephones and toys.

There are a number of complications that can occur as a result of untreated rhinovirus and other viral infections that cause the common cold. These may include acute ear infections or otitis media, wheezing, sinusitis and other types of secondary infections such as croup, bronchitis, pneumonia and strep throat. These infections require serious treatment by a physician, and this is why treating the common cold properly is so essential.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of Common Cold

The symptoms of the common cold typically appear within one to three days following exposure to the virus. The signs and symptoms can include but are not limited to mild fatigue, low grade fever, watery eyes, sneezing, mild headache, slight body aches, congestion, cough, itchy throat, sore throat, runny nose or stuffy nose. The discharge coming from the nose may become thicker and colored yellow or green as the common cold continues to run its course. The biggest difference between the common cold and other viral infections is that the common cold does not typically present with a high grade fever.

The common cold is a very common, easily contagious viral infection. It is not uncommon for adults to experience between two and four colds every year. Diagnosing the common cold typically involves an examination of the patients symptoms. The physician will want to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms before diagnosing a cold, since the flu and other viral infections can often present in similar ways, though typically in conjunction with a fever.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Common Cold

There is no way to cure the common cold. Since the cold is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics also will not provide any relief. The first line of defense against a common cold is over the counter cold preparations, but they are only going to address the symptoms rather than fighting against the actual viral infection. Some of the remedies that patients can use for cold treatment can include pain relievers to treat fever, headache and sore throat such as acetaminophen, decongestant nasal sprays and cough syrups. There are also lifestyle remedies that can play a role in the treatment of the common cold, such as getting enough fluids and getting enough restful sleep. If the symptoms associated with the common cold do not begin to clear up within a period of one to two weeks, then the patient should revisit a physician to make sure that a complication is not occurring that will lead to further illness.