While colds are merely an inconvenience to healthy adults, these infections can increase the risks and complications for young children, elderly individuals, and persons with pre-existing health conditions and serious illnesses. The predominant cause for the common cold is rhinovirus, an infection within the Picornaviridae family of viruses.
The treatment is generally focused on symptomatic relief and prevention of person-to-person spread and complications. Home therapy includes rest, hydration, antihistamines, and nasal decongestants. No antiviral agents are available to treat rhinovirus infections, and antibacterial agents are not effective unless a bacterial infection occurs.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a common cold may start with a watery, runny nose with clear discharge to thicker and colored nasal discharge. Persons with common colds may also develop symptoms such as:
- A mild fever (101°F–102°F / 38.3°C–38.9°C)
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- A decrease in appetite
Symptoms generally persist for 10 to 14 days, sometimes less. The incubation period for a rhinovirus infection is usually 2 to 3 days.
How Does it Spread?
Many different viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses are also associated to sinus and ear infections. Transmission can spread from infected people through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with stool or respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can occur when you shake hands with someone who has a cold or when you touch a doorknob that has the virus on it; then touch your eyes, mouth or nose.
Rhinoviruses can survive on surfaces for several hours and they are very effective pathogens.
Prevention & Treatment
To minimize risk of infection by hand-to-hand contact, autoinoculation, and aerosol particles, it is crucial to practice clean hygiene. Appropriate handwashing, avoidance of finger-to-eyes or finger-to-nose contact, and use of facial tissues can prevent a viral illness. To protect yourself and others, you can also reduce the risk of contracting the rhinovirus infection by observing the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Rhinoviruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Rhinoviruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
- Stay away from people who are sick and stay at home while you are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.
- Avoid close contact with others; such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue, then throw it away
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and objects such as toys and doorknobs
Antibiotics and antiviral medications are ineffective against most viruses that cause the common cold, especially rhinovirus. A cold normally lasts up to 10 days; however some symptoms do stay as long as three weeks.
Although there is no direct treatment or cure for rhinovirus, the following measures may help ease the symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids and keep well-hydrated; being dehydrated when infected with a cold can make you feel worse.
- Get plenty of bed rest; it is important to get as much sleep/rest as possible when infected as the body’s immune system is fighting off the virus.
- Take aspirin, paracetamol, or ibuprofen to relieve headache or fever.
- Some people find that inhaling steam helps ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.
When to See the Doctor
You should call your doctor if you have one or more of these conditions:
- A temperature higher than 100.4° F. If your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a fever, you should always call your doctor right away. Your doctor can determine if you or your child has a cold and can recommend therapy to help with symptoms.
- Symptoms that last more than 10 days.
- Symptoms that are severe or unusual.
Schedule a Consultation
Children and adults can develop different common colds throughout the year. Nasal congestion, coughs and other conditions can cause discomfort. Recognizing and understanding the symptoms, causes and treatment options can ease side effects of rhinovirus-induced common colds.
If you suspect a common cold, it may be time to discuss a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor. Join our many satisfied patients, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today.