Ministry of Education, Guyana

Common Cold

Bringing sniffles and sneezes and perhaps a sore throat and annoying cough, the common cold catches all of us from time to time.

With kids getting as many as eight colds per year or more, this contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract is the most common infectious disease.

Causes

Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses that are in invisible droplets in the air we breathe or on things we touch. More than 100 different rhinoviruses can infiltrate the protective lining of the nose and throat, triggering an immune system reaction that can cause a throat sore and headache, and make it hard to breathe through the nose.

Air that's dry — indoors or out — can lower resistance to infection by the viruses that cause colds. And so can being a smoker or being around someone who's smoking. People who smoke are more likely to catch a cold than people who don't — and their symptoms probably will be worse, last longer, and are more likely to lead to bronchitis or even pneumonia.

But despite some old wives' tales, not wearing a jacket or sweater when it's chilly, sitting or sleeping in a draft, and going outside while your hair's wet do not cause colds.

Signs and Symptoms

The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Kids with colds may also have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Nasal discharge may change from watery to thick yellow or green.

Contagiousness

Colds are most contagious during the first 2 to 4 days after symptoms appear, and may be contagious for up to 3 weeks. You can catch a cold from person-to-person contact or by breathing in virus particles spread through the air by sneezing or coughing. Touching the mouth or nose after touching skin or another surface contaminated with a rhinovirus can also spread a cold.

Prevention

Because so many viruses cause them, there isn't a vaccine that can protect against catching colds. But to help prevent them, kids should:

  • try to steer clear of anyone who smokes or who has a cold. Virus particles can travel up to 12 feet through the air when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes, and secondhand smoke can make your child more likely to get sick.
  • wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after blowing their noses
  • cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing (have them sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve, though, not their hands — this helps prevent the spread of germs)
  • not use the same towels or eating utensils as someone who has a cold. They also shouldn't drink from the same glass, can, or bottle as anyone else — you never know who might be about to come down with a cold and is already spreading the virus.
  • not pick up other people's used tissues

Researchers aren't sure whether taking extra zinc or vitamin C can limit how long cold symptoms last or how severe they become, but large doses taken every day can cause negative side effects.

Duration

Cold symptoms usually appear 2 or 3 days after exposure to a source of infection. Most colds clear up within 1 week, but some last for as long as 2 weeks.

Treatment

"Time cures all." That may not always be true, but in the case of the common cold, it's pretty close. Medicine can't cure the common cold, but it can be used to relieve such symptoms as muscle aches, headache, and fever. You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on the package recommendations for age or weight.

When to Call the Doctor

Always call the doctor if you think your child might have more than a cold, your child gets worse instead of better, or if any of these symptoms appear:

  • coughing up a lot of mucus
  • shortness of breath
  • unusual lethargy/tiredness
  • inability to keep food or liquids down or poor fluid intake
  • increasing headache or facial or throat pain
  • severely painful sore throat that interferes with swallowing
  • fever of 103°F (39.3°C) or higher, or a fever of 101°F (38.0°C) or higher that lasts for more than a day
  • chest or stomach pain
  • swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • earache

Like most virus infections, colds just have to run their course. Getting plenty of rest, avoiding vigorous activity, and drinking lots of fluids — juice, water, and noncaffeinated beverages — all may help your child feel better while on the mend.

Source:http://teenshealth.org/parent/infections/common/cold.html#

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