The common cold is so common that, well, they named it that way. Everyone catches a cold several times per year. Adults may have 2-4 colds per year while children, especially those under age 5, can have as many as 6-10 colds.
The common cold is actually caused by one of many types of viruses. There are the rhinoviruses, the coronavirus, adenoviruses and many other different viruses. There are over 200 viruses that produce the similar symptoms called the common cold. There are over 90 known types of the rhinovirus, and all of the other viruses are also a viral family, not one virus alone.
Cold symptoms vary from person to person and by age. They generally fall into the category of upper respiratory symptoms, coughing, chest congestion, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, sinus congestion and chills.
Other symptoms may occur. Fever is not normally found with a cold but with the flu. Flu symptoms overlap cold symptoms, but last longer and are usually more severe.
Cold symptoms appear 2-5 days after exposure, though they can appear as early as ten hours post exposure. The symptoms will reach their peak in 2-3 days and the cold should be over in 7-10 days. Symptoms can linger for weeks.
Colds are caused by a virus so there is no cure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind that antibiotics are of no use with a cold. Over the counter medications to relieve symptoms may help. There are prescription versions of many of these, in stronger doses or different combinations, should a physician feel they are needed.
The American Academy of Family Physicians strongly states that young people under the age of 18 should not take any medication containing aspirin if they have a fever. A serious complication called Reyes Syndrome may occur.
Business Insider, in a September 2014 piece, reported that most of the families of viruses that cause the common cold mutate so frequently that little lasting immunity is created by the illness. If you have four colds in a year, it was caused by four different viruses though they may have all been rhinoviruses. This is the primary reason that no vaccine has been developed.
While colds can be caught year round, the indoor months of fall, winter and spring are the time when they are suffered the most. Lack of sleep has been linked to a higher incidence of colds. There is no truth to the notion that you can catch cold by being cold and wet.
The Mayo Clinic notes that like influenza, the viruses that cause the common cold weaken the body’s immune system and complications from other infections can occur. Ear aches, bronchitis, croup and pneumonia are just a few illnesses that can follow or accompany a cold.
Patients who have trouble breathing, trouble with eating or drinking, or who develop a high fever should be seen by a physician as soon as possible. The family physician can also answer any questions about medications, symptoms and care.