A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. It’s common and relatively harmless, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when you have one. If it’s not a runny nose, sore throat and a cough, it’s watery eyes, sneezing and miserable congestion. Or maybe all of the above. In fact, because any one of more than 200 viruses can cause this infection, symptoms tend to vary greatly.
Unfortunately, if you’re like most adults, you’re likely to have two to four colds a year. Children, especially preschoolers, may have between five and nine colds annually. Colds are particularly prevalent among children attending child care.
The good news is that your symptoms should improve within a week, although some colds may last as long as two weeks. If lasting longer than that, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a secondary bacterial infection in your lungs, larynx, trachea, sinuses or ears.
Signs and symptoms
The onset of symptoms occurs within one to three days after you’re exposed to a cold virus. The first major symptom is usually a watery nose. You may also develop an itchy or sore throat, increased nasal congestion, slight body aches or a mild headache early in the course of the infection.
The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellowish as this virus runs its course. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Watery eyes
- Low fever — less than 102 F
- Mild fatigue
What makes this virus different from other viral infections is that you generally won’t have a high fever. You’re also unlikely to experience significant fatigue.
Although more than 200 viruses can cause colds, the rhinovirus is the most common, known culprit.
The virus enters your body through your mouth or nose, but it’s likely you also had a “hand” in your own illness. Although these viruses can be spread through sneezing and coughing, they’re often spread by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has one or by using shared objects such as utensils, towels or telephones. Touch your eyes or nose after such contact or exposure, and you’re likely to acquire this virus.
Because so many different viruses can be the cause, no effective vaccine has been developed. But though it may seem that they are inevitable, you can take some common-sense precautions to slow the spread:
- Wash your hands frequently and teach your children the importance of hand washing.
- Keep kitchen and bathroom counter tops clean, especially when someone in your family has a cold.
- Always sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away.
- Don’t share drinking glasses with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick.
- Avoid close, prolonged contact with someone who has one.
- Look for a child-care setting with sound hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping sick children at home.
- If possible, use a child-care center with a 5-to-1 or lower ratio of children to adults.
- Wash your child’s toys after play if your child contracts this virus.
Although many people believe that the herb echinacea and and megadoses of vitamin C can help prevent colds, studies have not found any protective benefit. Echinacea may, however, help shorten the duration.
This upper respiratory tract infection accounts for more visits to the doctor’s office than does any other condition in the United States. They also lead to millions of trips to the emergency room each year. There’s no cure! Antibiotics are of no use against these viruses, and although over-the-counter (OTC) preparations may make you feel better, they won’t cure it or make it go away any sooner.
OTC medications that combine antihistamines and decongestants won’t relieve symptoms in preschool children and may have side effects. For relief of fever or pain, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) is preferred instead of aspirin. Aspirin might have a role in causing Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease, in children younger than 16.
Below is a single link that provides documentation to what we believe to be a safe and effective alternative to preventing and developing upper respiratory tract infections. Nothing on the market today can touch this natural alternative.
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