What is a cold?
A common cold is, as its name suggests, very common. It is often very bothersome, but it's not serious. A cold causes an inflammation in the nose and throat that results in a stuffed nose or a runny nose and a lot of other complaints. Sometimes it takes a few days to recover from a cold, sometimes it can take a lot longer. A cold is caused by cold viruses, and not by cold weather, like many people believe. Because of cold weather your immune system can become less effective against viruses, including cold viruses.
What are the symptoms of a cold?
Cold viruses causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes (the top layer) in your nose and sometimes your throat. Your nose and throat produce extra phlegm because of this, which can be clear, green or yellow in color. Other symptoms of a cold are:
- a runny nose
- a stuffed nose
- (partly) losing your voice
- sore throat
Symptoms can sometimes last a long time. Most people are fully recovered from a cold after two weeks, but it can take longer. Fever is not very common with a simple cold.
Is a common cold serious and should I see a doctor?
Normally the symptoms will go away by themselves. The body removes the cold viruses. The mucous membranes (top layers in your nose and throat) heal after that. Sometimes a cold can last for weeks. If you feel that it is taking too long to get better, call a doctor. Always call a doctor in the following situations:
- You are short of breath (you have difficulty drawing breath)
- You're wheezing when you breathe
- You have had a fever for longer than 3 days.
Unfortunately there is no cure for the cold. Your body has to get better on its own. Antibiotics don't work on a cold, because a virus, not bacteria, causes it.
What can I do about a cold?
- A cold is innocent; you can go outside and carry out your normal day activities
- The cold is contagious. Always put your hand in front of your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands. Throw away your handkerchiefs after you've used them
- Don't smoke. Smoking irritates your throat and nose and slows the healing process
- When you cough you probably cough up phlegm. This is good, because the phlegm that is in your lungs should go away. That is why it is important not to suppress soughing. So, when you cough up phlegm, don't eat honey, don't use throat lozenges or licorice and don't use cough medicine.
- Don't use anti coughing medication or cough medicine. There is no prove that they work and they have side effects. Unless your doctor specifically said so, don't take codeine, antihistamine, promethazine, or dextrometorfan.
- If your throat is hurting try not to scrape it ttoo much. Drinking something cold or sucking on an ice cube can help. Gurgling with salt water may help too. Make this by dissolving a tablespoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water. Special gurgle solutions or drinks don't work better than a plain salt solution.
- Breathe through your nose. Use a nose spray if your nose is stuffed due to the cold. In some nose sprays there is a substance called xylomatazoline, which shrinks the membranes in your nose, so you can breath again. Always carefully read the instructions before using a nose spray, especially the part about the amount of days you can safely use it. You can also make nose drops yourself by adding a tablespoon of salt to a glass of lukewarm water. You can apply a few drops in your nose 4 to 6 times a day.
- Steaming may give some relieve from the cold symptoms, but it has not been proven. Position your had above a pan or bucket filled with hot water. Do not use menthol, chamomile or eucalyptus in the water, this will irritate your nose and throat even more! Be careful you don't burn yourself!
If you have doubts about your symptoms. Do the sore throat check.