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Common Cold Facts and Myths

Common Cold Facts and Myths

Being a common disease, there are many myths that are perpetuated regarding the common cold. If you are confused due to some of these claims, read the following article, to clarify between fact and fiction.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
"Aaaaacccchhhoooo'. Please excuse me, I have caught a common cold and have sneezed my head off. As I was down with this common disease, my mom made me chicken soup, and explained that it is one of the best cold remedies. My best friend called me up, and said I should eat more ice cream as it helps in easing common cold! My dad said it is the weather that is causing this misery. Wow! Hearing all these arguments and home remedies, a thought struck my mind. What is the truth behind these facts and myths? Should we just follow these myths blindly or try to find out the truth? Well, I did just that. As I was off work for 4 days, due to my miserable, contagious condition, I decided to do some progressive research and find out the real facts on common cold. Just as 'The X-Files' states "The Truth is Out There", I began my search for the truth about these facts and myths. (You may be wondering, why didn't I just lie down quietly in bed? Actually, I was lying in my bed, and used my laptop, and called in some medical books from the library.)
Facts About Common Cold

Common cold is caused mainly by rhinovirus, that cannot replicate itself outside the body. These viruses are airborne and get released into the air when you sneeze. The person near you inhales these respiratory droplets containing the virus, which helps the virus gain entry into the body. Touching an infected surface and shaking hands with a person suffering from cold, can also result in transfer of the virus.
Duration
It ranges from 2 days to two weeks. There is a vast difference in the duration in healthy people. There is no explanation for this difference of duration as yet. An average adult suffers from 2 to 4 bouts of cold and fever. School going kids may develop as many 12 colds per year. People suffering from asthma develop more cold bouts than the average person, and this may aggravate their chronic condition. This may lead to hospitalization of the asthmatic person.
Symptoms
They usually begin with a sore throat for a day or two, i.e., during the incubation period. You may also observe runny nose and congestion along with cough, on the third or fourth day. Fever is very common in children and adults. Children may also show fatigue, muscle pain, and loss of appetite. As the symptoms progress, you will develop thicker and darker, yellow or green nasal secretions. The dark mucus is not a sign of bacterial infection, but is a natural symptom.
Contagious Period
The first 2 to 4 days after the development of the symptoms, are the most contagious. The contagious period may extend up to 3 weeks. The fever duration can be for up to 4 days in children and 2 days in adults. The duration may extend, if you are suffering from a severe cold.
Flu Symptoms
There is a wide-spread confusion regarding common cold and the flu. Many people think they are the same, as they show similar symptoms. But did you know that there is a vast difference between common cold and flu symptoms? Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and its symptoms are more severe than those of cold. You may also suffer from sore throat, fever, headache, muscle ache, soreness, congestion, and cough. In case of swine flu symptoms, you may also observe vomiting and diarrhea.
Most of the flu symptoms last for about 2 to 5 days, and you may feel fatigued for a week or even more. Elderly people and very young ones with flu symptoms may develop pneumonia, lung, or heart problems. If you have shortness of breath and fever, visit the doctor immediately as it is a sign of pneumonia.
The flu virus also gains entry into the body, just like the common cold virus, through the mucus membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth. Whenever you touch your hands in these regions, you may transfer the virus from your hand to the nasal cavity. Therefore, wash your hands frequently, and prevent both common cold and flu.
Treatment
There is no specific cure and the most common treatment advised is rest. You may be prescribed painkillers and analgesics for headache, body-ache, and fever, by the doctor. The doctor may also advice acetaminophen or ibuprofen for kids, according to the age and weight of the child. Other common remedies include saltwater drops in the nostrils, that helps in relieving nasal congestion. You can even buy saline nose drops at the drug store.
You can also apply petroleum jelly on the skin under the nose, as it helps in soothing the rawness due to excessive nose rubbing. You can give kids, older than 3 years, hard candy or cough drops to relieve sore throat. Take a warm bath and use heating pads as a remedy for soothing aches and body pain. You should drink plenty of fluids to keep away risk of dehydration, and help replace the fluids that are lost during fever and mucus production. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages as it causes frequent urination and increases the risk of dehydration.
Chicken soup is one of the most used remedies, that has been around since the 12th century. Although there is no direct proof of chicken soup as a cure, it contains an amino acid called cysteine. This amino acid has a mucus thinning effect and helps control congestion causing white blood cells. This helps in easing the effects of cold and flu to some extent.
Myths About Common Cold

My grandpa believes in the myth that common cold is caused by cold weather. But, it is not caused due to cold weather, but due to warm people. People spread the viruses and transfer them unknowingly to other susceptible humans.
Myth: Don't Go Out with Wet Clothes and Wet Hair
Fact: Many studies have been conducted and none of them could find a connection between cold weather, wet hair, and feeling cold. The actual cause is that cold virus and flu virus survive in low humidity, and thus, become more viable in winter or autumn. Also, your nasal passages tend to be more dry in winter, thus are more vulnerable to viral infection.
Myth: Fly and You May Catch A Flu
Fact: It has got nothing to do with flying, however, the closed environment of an airplane may increase the chances of spreading the cold virus, as it is highly contagious. If someone is suffering from common cold in the plane, it may result in spreading the virus around, and someone else catching a cold.
Myth: Antibiotics Help in Common Cold Treatment
Fact: Antibiotics act on bacteria, not viruses. If you develop a bacterial infection due to lowered immunity by the cold symptoms, the doctor may advise you antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial infection. But they are in no way connected to viral cold.
Myth: Feed the Cold, Starve the Fever
Fact: If you have common cold or flu, your body's immune system is under a lot of stress. It is busy fighting the persistent virus in your body, and it needs a lot of energy to ward off the infection. Thus, you need to eat small and balanced meals and drink lots and lots of fluids. Drink water, fruit juices, and even soups. Do not eat processed foods, instead have more fruits and vegetables, that help provide vital nutrients to your immune system to fight the invading viruses.
Myth: Avoid Drinking Milk
Fact: An Australian study has shown there is no connection between milk and mucus production, and one can safely consume milk when suffering from common cold.
Myth: Stay in Bed When Suffering from Common Cold
Fact: You should continue exercising and carry out some of your daily activities, within the house. You can skip work if you want to, so that you don't spread the virus to other susceptible hosts. If you are suffering from aches and pain, you can rest for sometime. Staying in bed will in no way help in a quick recovery.
Myth: Kiss, Kiss - Sneeze, Sneeze
Fact: Well, scientist conducted a test to find out whether it is possible to be infected with cold virus after kissing. In order to carry out the study, they spread a solution of rhinovirus on the tongue and nasal cavity of the volunteers. They found that you would require a thousand times stronger concentration of rhinovirus in the mouth than the nose. The viruses quickly spread through contaminated hands, than kissing. Therefore, if your admirer kisses your hands and you find him sneezing, better wash off your hand to keep the cold bug away!
Myth: Drink Away Your Common Cold - Cheers!
Fact: It is a fact that alcohol has a sterilizing effect, but, it enters the stomach through the gastrointestinal tract. And the virus are present in the upper respiratory tract. So instead of fighting the viruses, alcohol slows down the other body reactions, and weakens the immune system. It is incompatible with many medications, and leads to a bad liver. So avoid alcohol as it won't cure your cold, and may give rise to other severe complications.
These are a few facts and myths about common cold that are as common as the disease itself. There is no way by which you can avoid catching a cold, and the only way to prevent it is totally avoiding all human contact and becoming a hermit. Well, I do not think this is possible in any way, and therefore, you should follow a healthy diet and build a strong immune system to avoid fever as much as possible. Wash your hands frequently with a proper disinfectant soap or hand wash. Do not just follow everything you hear blindly. Consult your doctor if your symptoms do not reduce after 5 days. I hope this article on proves to be an interesting and informative read for you. I shall end my article and get back to sleep. Ciao! Aaaaaacccchhhhhhoooooo!!
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider.