Coughs and Colds
What Causes The Common Cold?
The common cold is just that; common. It often affects most if not all of us at least once or twice a year. The common cold is an ‘opportunistic virus’ and will more than likely exert it’s effects on those with a weaker immune system. Some of the symptoms associated with the common cold include a cough, runny and blocked nose, sneezing, sore throat, aching muscles, mild fever and lethargy.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the cold. The cold is not a bacterial infection that can be tackled by antibiotics, it is simply a virus that uses are own cells to replicate and infect our body. The virus itself spreads from person to person by touching contaminated areas or via droplets from coughs and sneezes. The cold virus is highly infective and thrives in colder climates.
A lot of people would assume that antibiotics can be used to treat the cold, however they are completely ineffective in treating the virus. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can be dangerous because when you do end up needing them, they may not work due to something called ‘resistance’, in which the antibiotic becomes ineffective against some common bacterial infections.
What is The Difference Between The Cold and The Flu?
More often than not when people wake up feeling bunged up, with moderately sore muscles, a blocked nose and the urge to sneeze, they might think that they have the flu. It is important to be able to tell the difference between the cold and the flu in order to be able to seek the correct treatment.
The main differentiating factor when trying to decipher between a cold and a flu is that a flu usually causes you to have a very high fever, that comes on relatively quickly. As stated, some colds do on occasion cause a fever, however the once associated with the flu is relatively more severe. The flu also leads to an increased severity in muscle pain, so much so that getting up and walking leaves people in excruciating pain. Whilst the common cold often leads to some of these symptoms, again they are often much more mild.
Both the cold and flu are viral infections, meaning that neither of them should or can be treated with antibiotics. The treatment plans for both cold and flu are similar, however it often takes much longer to get over the flu than it does to recover from the common cold.
How Do I Treat The Common Cold?
Unfortunately, the common cold cannot be cured, the only way to ‘get over the cold’ is to let your body’s immune system handle it. The only thing that can be done is to manage the symptoms associated with the common cold. This means taking painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or co-codamol to manage the fever, muscle pain, sore throats and headaches. People often use cough syrups containing various ingredients to help deal with a persistent cough and to aid in sleeping at night time. Nasal sprays such as Otrivine or Sterimar can also be used to deal with the blocked nose and congestion.
Aside from taking medication, self care is the most important thing when it comes to getting over the cold and flu. Staying hydrated with plenty of water (avoid fizzy drinks and caffeine) and maintaining a diet higher in unsaturated fats and increased intake of vitamins and minerals will likely help in boosting your immune system to allow it to deal with the infected cells. Plenty of bed rest and warm water mixed with lemon and honey has also been known to be very helpful.
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