With the word “common” right there in its name, it’s no surprise that there are millions of cases of the common cold every year. In fact, studies show that adults may experience 2 to 3 common colds each year, and even more in children.
Here are some things our experts believe you should know about common colds.
What Is The Common Cold?
The common cold is a very contagious viral infection that affects the nose and throat. There are more than 200 viruses that can cause cold infections. However, the common cold is mostly caused by a virus called rhinovirus.
Even though most common cold infections are not dangerous, they can lead to more serious conditions, e.g., pneumonia and bronchiolitis, if not handled well.
Symptoms and Signs of the Common Cold
Appearing around 1 to 3 days after the infection, early signs of the common cold start with a runny nose and nasal congestion.
Signs and symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the infection and can include:
- Stuffy nose
- Nasal discharge (initially clear, but could turn greenish or yellowish)
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
However, as most respiratory tract infections can cause somewhat similar symptoms, common cold infections can be confused with other infections.
The Common Cold Vs. The Flu
With both being viral infections that affect the upper respiratory system and having similar symptoms, influenza (flu) and common cold infections can be easily mixed up.
However, different from the common cold, influenza can affect the lower respiratory system (the windpipe and lungs), as well, which makes it more serious and liable to cause complications, e.g., pneumonia and secondary infections.
Signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- Moderate to high fever
- Persistent coughing
- Shortness of breath
Even though most flu infections can resolve on their own, children age 5 or less are at a high risk for flu complications and require medical attention.
Complications Of Common Cold Infections
Even though the respiratory system is the main part affected, a common cold infection can spread causing some complications. These complications include:
Otitis media is an acute infection that affects the ear. It is one of the most common complications of common cold infections.
Neglecting a common cold infection may cause it to spread into the sinuses in some cases, causing acute sinusitis.
Wheezing is a coarse, high-pitched whistling sound that comes out when you breathe. It is usually associated with asthma. However, a common cold can cause wheezing even if the patient is not asthmatic.
Treatment Of The Common Cold
There isn’t a definitive cure for common cold. Usually, common cold infections resolve on their own within 7 to 10 days. However, some symptoms may remain for a bit longer.
Relieving symptoms is key in managing common cold infections. Increasing fluid intake and clearing nasal discharge that’s causing congestion can be highly effective in relieving discomfort.
Antibiotics don’t work with common cold infections. However, using over-the-counter medications to manage the pain and reduce fever is recommended.
Despite being effective in adults, using cough or cold medications for younger children can be dangerous due to their serious side effects. Always talk to a pediatrician before giving any type of medication to your child.
When To See A Doctor
Most cases of the common cold don’t need to visit a doctor. However, medical attention is required if you experience any of the following:
- Symptoms that are worsening or not improving
- Fever that is getting worse or won’t go away
- Shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Loss of appetite
- Ear pain
- Increased irritability
Pediatric Care in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
Concerned about your child’s health? Visit us at Children’s Medical Center today and receive the premium care your child deserves. Our highly trained, board-certified staff of experienced pediatricians are here to answer all your concerns.