Cough and Cold: Everything You Must Know
Cough and colds are caused by a virus, with rhinovirus as the most common infectious agent.
Other viruses include influenza, coronavirus, parainfluenza, and the respiratory syncytial virus. Common signs and symptoms include a sore throat, watery eyes, a stuffy/runny nose, and sneezing. Other people may also suffer from a headache, body malaise, and fever.
Read further to learn more about these illnesses, along with ways to treat and prevent them.
How Cough and Colds Begin
A cough and a cold are contagious illnesses, meaning you can get these from someone who is infected with the viral infectious agent. This usually happens through direct physical contact or indirect contact like touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth and nose. Moreover, you can acquire these from inhaling infected air droplets released by coughing or sneezing.
The common cold starts once the virus attaches to the lining of your throat or nose. Your body’s natural defense will then send out white blood cells to get rid of these foreign invaders – reinforcements are often necessary, especially when the first attack isn’t successful. After that, inflammation occurs in your nose and throat, resulting in mucus production. Since most of your body’s energy is directed toward attacking the cold virus, you will then feel miserable and tired.
If you have a strong immune system, you will most likely defeat a cough and a cold in no time.But if you are often tired, if you have allergies, or if you are under emotional distress, it may take days or even weeks for your cough and cold to go away. Thus, it is crucial for you to boost your body’s immune system by taking enough rest and observing proper nutrition.
Medicines You Can Take
Treatment for the common cold is directed toward relieving the signs and symptoms.Often, antibiotics are not advised because they are of no use unless the cold is caused by bacteria. Instead, here are some of the over-the-counter medications you can take.
1. Cough syrups
A cough brought about by a common cold can go away on its own. But if it is keeping you from completing your daily routines and is preventing you from having a good night’s sleep, cough medicines can help.
Cough syrups come in two types – antitussives and expectorant. Also known as cough suppressants, antitussives block the cough reflex to prevent you from coughing excessively. On the other hand, an expectorant syrup helps thin your mucus so you can cough it out easily.
2. Nasal decongestants
If you are suffering from a stuffy nose, a nasal decongestant can help. This medication helps shrink the swollen tissues and blood vessels in your nose, thus relieving nasal congestion. It comes in liquids, nasal sprays, pills, and nose drops.
3. Pain relievers
If your common cold is accompanied by a headache, sore throat, and fever, mild pain relievers can help. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs and acetaminophen are the two most common groups of pain relievers you can opt for. NSAIDs relieve fever and pain by controlling your body temperature and reducing the substances that cause pain in your body. Acetaminophen, on the other hand, targets the part of your brain that regulates your body temperature and perceives pain.
These over-the-counter medications are easily accessible, but it does not mean that you can take them all at once or whenever you want to. You should always read the labels carefully, follow the proper dosage, and be aware of how to use them safely. If symptoms persist, you must consult a physician ASAP. And if you are taking maintenance medications or you have a pre-existing condition, ask your doctor first before taking any OTC drugs to make sure that these won’t interact with your current medications.
In addition to taking medications, there are home remedies that can help relieve the signs and symptoms of a cough and a cold. These include:
- Increasing your fluid intake, such as water, warm lemon water, juice, and clear broth. But avoid alcohol and caffeine because these beverages will dehydrate you.
- Getting adequate rest. For instance, you must stay home if you have a bad cough or fever. This will not just give you an opportunity to rest but also prevent you from infecting other people.
- Soothing your throat by gargling salt water.
- Drinking warm fluids like chicken soup to loosen congestion and soothe your painful throat.
- Keeping your room warm by adjusting its humidity and temperature. You can use a clean vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier to moisten the air, which helps relieve nasal and chest congestion and ease coughing.
- Eating nutritious food, such as fruits and vegetables.
How to Prevent a Common Cold
A cough and a cold are quite difficult to prevent, but it isn’t impossible. Here are some suggestions that can help:
- Avoid having direct contact with people suffering from a common cold.
- Always wash your handsafter blowing your nose, touching people with a cough and a cold, and coming into contact with objects they have touched.
- Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes and nose to prevent yourself from inhaling the cold virus particles that you might have picked up.
- Be vigilant about your environment’s humidity so your sinuses don’t dry out.
In case you are suffering from a cough and a cold already, you must also prevent others from being infected by covering your mouth and nose each time you sneeze or cough. Also, throw away the tissue you used and always wash your hands. Furthermore, don’t mingle with vulnerable people, such as those with chronic lung disease or asthma.
Complications of Cough and Colds
A cough and a cold usually last for several days or weeks, whether you are taking medications or not. But the illness can open doors to other conditions like ear infections, acute bronchitis, and sinusitis. So it is important that you know expectorant syrup instantly.
If you experience high fever, severe cold symptoms, ear pain, prolonged cough, sinus-type headaches, or an outbreak of asthma and other chronic lung problems, consult a healthcare provider immediately. You may be advised to undergo several diagnostic tests like a chest X-ray to rule out the other possible causes of your symptoms. Also, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics if the common cold resulted in a bacterial infection in your ears, sinuses and lungs.