The common cold is a highly contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract that is characterized by an excessive amount of secretions from the nose. It is the most common illness that affects people of all ages. Most of the time, it is not severe and the symptoms last only a few days. However, during those few days, you will feel very miserable and have very little energy.
Most people believe that the common cold comes from being out in cold weather or from getting wet. While such events can increase the possibilities of contracting this illness, they are not direct causes. A cold is caused by a virus in tiny microorganisms transmitted into the air when a person who has the cold coughs or sneezes. The reason why most people think it is caused by cold weather is that the winter months are the time of the year when most people are most prone to this illness.
The symptoms of the common cold can vary from one person to another. It can involve all or part of the respiratory tract. The earliest symptoms are a tickling sensation in the throat, muscle aches and pains and a feeling of being chilled. As the illness progresses, the mucous membranes in the nose become inflamed and start to secrete a watery mucus. This is what people call having a runny nose. Sometimes a bacterial infection develops in which this mucous becomes yellow and thick.
The throat can become infected and very sore, making it hard to swallow. A cough can develop as well as congestion on the chest. Sometimes, those with a cold may be hoarse or find it hard to talk because of the soreness of the throat. Headache and fever often accompany a common cold and a person may not feel like eating very much.
Complications can develop with the common cold as well, such as ear and sinus infections. An infection of the middle ear can result when the mucous from the nose is forced back into the ear when you blow your nose too hard. Continuous coughing can irritate the tissues of the lungs and throat. Babies and the elderly are particularly at risk of developing complications from the common cold.
Bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids is the usual treatment for the common cold. There are many cold remedies you can purchase over the counter at the pharmacy, but whether or not you take these medications or not, the common cold generally lasts from seven to ten days. Antibiotics are only prescribed when complications develop.