FIGHTING THE COMMON COLD
Common Cold 101
The common cold can be caused by over 200 different viruses. One of the most common viruses responsible for the common cold is the rhinovirus, which accounts for up to 50% of cases. Although bothersome, the rhinovirus usually only causes minor sickness that goes away with time. There are many other viruses that can cause the common cold, and some of them can also cause more serious infections. For example, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause serious lower respiratory tract infections in children, but in adults the infection is generally not as serious.
· Runny or stuffy nose (hard to breathe through your nose)
· Watery eyes
· Headache and/or body aches
· Feeling tired
· Sore or scratchy throat
· Fever – more common in children than adults
What is the “Cold Season”?
In general, the cold season runs through the fall and winter months but may carry over into early spring (September – May). This could be due to many different factors, some include: the start of school, decrease in humidity (most viruses grow in low humidity), and the start of people spending more time indoors where they can easily spread germs to others.
Can the Cold be spread to others?
Colds are contagious… which means if you can pass it on to others around you. The cold is passed to others when someone comes into contact with droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing. You can also get the cold from touching phones, doors, counter tops, etc. that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Preventing the common cold:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water or use alcohol based hand sanitizers often.
- Clean counter tops, phones, desks, etc. with disinfectant.
- Avoid contact with people who have the cold.
- Cover your mouth/ nose when you cough or sneeze with either a tissue or your elbow (not your hands!).
Stay home if you are sick to avoid passing on your illness.
Treating Common Colds
Antibiotics usually do not work for a cold because they are caused by viruses. There are times when the illness is caused by bacteria and your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection.
Treatment for the common cold only includes over-the-counter (OTC) products that can help with symptoms while your body fights the virus. The table below will show you some OTC medications you may be able to use. It is important to ask your pharmacist what the best option is for you, especially if you take other daily medications (ex. high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid medications).
Runny nose, sneezing, post-nasal drip (dripping into the back of your throat), watery eyes
Antihistamines like Claritin®, Allegra®, or Zyrtec® will help to dry you up and relieve these symptoms.
Sore or scratchy throat
Sore throat spray (ex. Chloraseptic®, lozenges (ex. Luden's® or Cepacol®) may help to soothe or numb sore throat.
At home remedies may include: cold popsicles or ice chips
Cough syrups like Robitussin DM® or Delsym® contain a product that helps stop a dry or hacking cough.
For a cough that contains a lot of mucus from the chest (productive cough) you can use Mucinex®. Mucinex® contains a product that will help loosen mucus so you can cough it up.
Stuffy nose or sinus pain
Decongestants like Sudafed® help to make it easier to breathe through your nose and also will decrease sinus pressure or pain.
For a stuffy nose there are also nasal sprays you can use. You can use just a saline nasal spray line Ocean® or a nasal spray like Affrin® which has a different decongestant in it.
Fever or pain
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®), Ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) can help reduce any pain or fever you may have.
Other important things to remember are: get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Also, putting a cool mist humidifier in your room or gargling with warm salt water can help with a sore throat.
Usually a cold will last about 1 week, but they can last longer. If symptoms are severe, don’t improve, become worse, or new ones develop you should contact your doctor.