Here, you will find in-depth details of the common cold with some detailed explained key points.
The Common Cold
The effects of the common cold don’t always feel so common. After a week in bed, and hundreds of tissues sprawled across the living room floor, it can feel like a serious illness. Luckily, it is nothing to worry about. Common cold symptoms can make you feel like a wreck, but often times they’re better for you than you think.
What Is a Cold? [1 2] To best understand the effects of the common cold, it’s helpful to know exactly what a cold is. The common cold is a simple sickness that occurs when an unwelcome virus finds its way into the nasal cavity. Once in the nose, colds can unleash havoc on a host of bodily functions. In fact, once inside the body, a cold can take possession of the entire upper respiratory tract. The common cold usually reaches into the sinuses and the ears.
It all begins when the virus finds its way to the very back of the nose. Funnily enough, it’s actually the nose that carries the virus into itself. The first and natural reaction of the nose is to pull the virus cells deeper until it reaches the adenoid part of the nasal passage.
It doesn’t take much. The tiniest dose of a virus can kickstart a week of sickness. After being taken to the very back of the nose, the virus finds its way into a cell and begins the sickness. Inside the cell, it creates a blast of smaller virus pieces that then in turn burst out of the cell and spread all along the nasal cavity and passageways.
How Long Will It Last?
Colds can vary greatly in how long they affect the body. A terrible cold might last two weeks or more, while a minor cold may take care of itself in less than a couple of days. On average, you can expect to be sick for about a week. The sickness itself, however, begins earlier than the first symptoms. Symptoms of a cold may not be felt until three or more days after a person is first exposed to the cold inducing virus. [1 2 3 4]
Who is at Risk?
Adults bear a much lower risk associated with the common cold than do infants or the elderly. Toddlers, meaning children six years old or younger, are at a much higher risk. Likewise, symptoms that may not affect the life of a healthy adult all too much can be potentially disastrous for an elderly patient. A healthy adult shouldn’t be infected with the common cold more than two or three times in a year.
Common Cold Symptoms
Everyone knows what a cold feel like. It doesn’t feel good. Many symptoms come along with the virus, but the most common are a runny or stuffy nose, body aching and headaches, sneezing, fever, feeling generally unwell, coughing, and sore throat. [1 2]
Exhaustive nasal discharge is the most common effect of the cold and frequently changes color over the period of the infection. It also typically becomes thicker over time, until the patient is well.
Generally, adults will be fine to let the sickness run its course without seeking the immediate help of a doctor; but that isn’t always the case. Adults should reach out to their doctors when their fever exceeds 101.3 F, their fever lasts for more than five days or returns, they experience shortness of breath, they wheeze frequently, or their throat remains sore over a significant amount of time.
For the most part, patients will recover on their own without ever experiencing such bad symptoms. Over the counter cold medications are available at every pharmacy and can help with most of the minor discomforts.
Children are typically at a higher risk for this type of infection, compared to adults. Pay close attention to their behavior for symptoms similar to that of a sick adult. Also watch for signs of extra-rowdy behavior, atypical sleepiness, and a downturn in hunger for younger children; these may also be signs your child has a cold.
Why Does the Body React?
The effects of the common cold are, in large part, a natural response of the body itself. Much of the discomfort we all feel when laid up with a cold is our immune systems trying to protect our bodies from infection. The body actually has at its disposal many tools meant just for this occasion.
The Tools of the Body
Common cold symptoms, such as sneezing, and coughing may seem like a bad price to pay for a little sickness, but they’re actually the body’s helpful way of curing itself.
Sneezing is the body’s way of throwing out the virus cells, once it realizes its sick. A fever also works in your favor when suffering from the cold. Fever is an attempt to overheat the sickness and force it to leave. The only time to worry about a fever with the cold is when it reaches above 102 degrees, or last longer than three days without stopping. Just make sure you have plenty of water while sweating it out.
Runny noses are also a helpful symptom of being sick. It’s the body specifically trying to remove the sickness, almost in the same way as a sneeze. Whereas a sneeze is trying to blast out the bacteria, the mucus in your nose is trying to carry it away. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to carry the sickness out (days), since it continually makes copies of itself. An unfortunate side effect of this mucus builds up is run off into your throat.
Sore throats are nothing to worry about. It’s the nose’s mucus helping to flush away the sickness. With too much of it, though, comes inflammation and general bad feelings. Sore throats rarely stay for too long when just dealing with a minor cold but watch out if breathing or eating become overly difficult. Your cold may have transformed into something else.
Coughing is a common response to many of these other issues, especially too much runoff from the nose. It’s a natural and involuntary behavior that is meant to clear up the throat and hopefully prevent some of that mucus buildup in the back of your throat. Unfortunately, for your throat, if coughing gets out of hand it can lead to even more soreness and swelling.
One effect of the sickness that can be hard to see a use for is aching. Your body hurting hardly seems like a good thing, but it too has its function. This is your body shedding toxins that help your immune system to better fight the cold.
Wait It Out
A cold can seem like a terribly debilitating sickness, with the running nose, excess coughing, and bad feelings all around. For the most part, however, the body takes care of itself in moments like this and there’s nothing to worry about. Just spend the time learning about the miracle of your immune system and catch up on some much-needed sleep.