The cold season has started and I found myself excited in anticipation of the coming holidays. I usually look forward to the cold season, for I’ve always associated the cold season with gift-giving, shopping and merry get-togethers. I’ve started visiting the malls hoping to start on my list, but the shopping bug did not get into me, I found myself prey to the common colds instead. And believe me, two weeks of sneezing, wheezing, coughing and blowing my nose is the funnest way to welcome the cold season (or any other season, to begin with).
Though it’s not the cold season that causes the colds, it (along with other symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection like runny nose, sore throat, cough, breathing difficulty, sore throat, and sometimes lethargy ) occurs more frequently during the cold, winter months. It is caused by an airborne virus, and people can get infected when they come in contact with such. It can, of course, happen at any time and at any month, but it is most common in the fall and winter months, when people (children and adults) spend a lot of time together in groups and inside closed doors. It is also during the cold months that viruses that cause upper respiratory infection thrive.
The virus is most often spread from person to person -from being sneezed and coughed on, or simply just in contact with an affected person. Some viruses can also live up to a maximum of 2 hours on inaminated objects like sinks, faucets, door and drawer handles, phones or anything an infected person touches.
Who are most susceptible to colds and other symptoms of URTI?
Not everyone would “catch” colds when they get exposed to the virus because the body’s immue system would do everything it can to stave off the virus, but the following are most likely to catch the virus:
those with close contact to people in groups and in closed-quarters settings
people with poor handwashing habits can easily contract the virus after being exposed to it.
people who smoke or those who experience second-hand smoking (as their mucosal resistance gets impaired).
those working in health carefacilities and nursing homes.
those with compromised immune system such as those positive with the HIV, people who have undergone organ transplant; people with congenital immune defects; people who have gone thru long-term steroid use.
Symptoms of URTI normally last for about 3 days to 2 weeks and the symptoms can be treated by home remedies such as:
increased oral intake of water and juices (no caffeinated nor alcoholic drinks please!) or warm beverages such as hot tea, hot cholocolate and warm milk
making steam in the shower by turning on the hot water and breathing the steamed air;
using a vaporizer to create humidity in the room.
The intake of Vitamins C and E was thought to shorten the duration of colds and other URTI symptoms but research found no conclusive evidence regarding the benefits of vitamin, though multivitamins when taken regularly, will boost the immune system. Drugs like antibiotics, decongestants and cough medications are only advised in extreme cases.
Rest, as with any type of infection, is important. Usual activities like working and attending school may be continued but be sure to make extra measure not to spread the virus. Wash your hands thoroughly and always cover your hands when sneezing and coughing.
When should you see a doctor?
Most people who got infected simply wait for the symptoms to disappear and does not immediately seek medical advice. Most symptoms get resolved on their own but consult your doctor if:
- symptoms last more than a couple of weeks, or if symptoms worsen or become severe
- you encounter difficulty in breathing and swallowing
- if the infection and the symptoms recur after treatment.