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Quick Q&A On Cold Season

January 21, 2016

What is the common cold?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract — your nose and throat.”

What are the symptoms of a cold?

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Sinuses draining into the back of the throat
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes

You may have some or all of these symptoms. As the Mayo Clinic says, “because any one of more than 100 viruses can cause a common cold, signs and symptoms tend to vary greatly.”


How long does the common cold last?

The common cold lasts seven to ten days, usually.

How do you avoid catching a cold?

  • wash your hands often
  • cover your cough (and wash your hands after)
  • don’t use public phones
  • disinfect common surfaces: door knobs, phones, etc.
  • stay away from cold sufferers as much as possible

Do the colder temperatures of winter cause colds?

No, viruses do, but cold, dry air does make a better environment for viruses to spread. The cold season usually starts in the fall, because that’s when school starts. Just being in close proximity makes spreading germs easy.  Add to that young children who are still learning hygienic behavior and you have a recipe for contagion.


How should I treat my cold?

Pushing liquids and bed rest make up the majority of the treatment. Sleeping in a warm room is recommended.  Yes, the Mayo Clinic also recommends chicken soup! It hasn’t decided if Vitamin C, echinacea, or zinc are helpful, but they certainly don’t hurt. Then aspirin or Tylenol if you have fever.  Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t work on viruses so that’s a no go.

Should I see a doctor?

If the symptoms above are the only ones you have, you probably don’t need to see your physician.  If, however, your symptoms last longer than ten days, then there may be reason for concern.  Or if your fever becomes high-grade (> 102 degrees), this may indicate that a bacteria infection has begun.  An upper respiratory infection can develop into other conditions that do warrant medical attention:

  • Acute ear infection
  • Asthma (colds don’t cause this, but can trigger attacks)
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis

Any of the following symptoms should have immediate attention:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fainting or feeling faint
  • Feeling foggy or confused

Hopefully, following the suggestions above, we can make it through the season without too much discomfort.

For more detailed information on this subject, visit some of the sites used to research this blog:

Neither these websites or this blog is a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

As always, thanks for reading!

—E. A. Cooke


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