What is the common cold?
The common cold is a mild infection. It is caused by various viruses, meaning that antibiotics are of no benefit in its treatment. The common cold affects the upper respiratory tract which includes the nose, throat, sinuses and the upper airways/chest. As the name suggests it is extremely common with children suffering up to 12 colds per year & adults suffering between 2 and 4 colds annually.
How is the common cold transmitted?
The common cold is transmitted in a number of ways. The virus can be passed on through physical contact with an infected person, for example shaking hands or touching a shared object such as a door handle. Once the virus is on the hands the virus enters the body through rubbing your nose etc. The cold can also be spread through lets in the air. These are generated through coughing and sneezing without covering your mouth or nose and are then breathed in by another person.
What are the symptoms of the common cold?
The common cold has a very typical presentation. The cold generally presents initially as a sore throat, a runny nose and sneezing. After a few days gradual thickening of the mucus in the nose causes the nose to feel blocked up. As the cold progresses it tends to make you feel quite run down and generally not well. Around 3- 5 days after the initial symptoms present, a cough will develop. This is typically the most bothersome symptom as it can often affect ability to sleep. This is usually the peak of the cold and after this point you should start to feel better, however it can take up to a week before the tiredness and general feeling of being poorly subsides.
What are the treatment options for the common cold?
The common cold is a self-limiting condition. This means it will go away without any treatment. However symptomatic management can be carried out. This symptomatic management won’t ‘cure’ the cold however it will manage the symptoms, making you feel a little better, whilst the body deals with the causative bug.
Rest is extremely important in the common cold. Getting an extra few hours of sleep allows the body to attack the bug causing your cold as well to replace the cells that this bug has destroyed. Drinking plenty of fluids is also important to keep mucus membranes (like the lining of the nose and throat) moist and able to prevent any further infections.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen are recommended to manage heachaches, aches and pains and high temperature associated with the cold. They are safe to be used together however not all patients can use ibuprofen. Ask your McKay Pharmacy Pharmacist for advice on which is best for you!
Some patients may be able to take oral or nasal decongestants. There are many different products containing these. Some contain paracetamol with the decongestant such as Sinutab. Others simply contain the decongestant such as Sudafed, or Otrivine Nasal Spray. These medicines will help to relieve the blocked up feeling in the nose and head and will also help to stop running noses too. Not everyone can use these medicines so again, the advice of your McKay Pharmacy Pharmacist will be invaluable.
If a cough is present, the cough medicines mentioned in the previous blog post can be used!Back