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The Common Cold. By Our November Student Pharmacist, Melissa Carlone.

As the beauty of fall radiates at it’s brightest and you enjoy a warm and comforting cup of hot chocolate near the fireplace, life seems pretty darn good! While fall can be a calming and festive season, it also means that winter is not too far away. This is the time when the common cold makes it’s way around town. Here are a few tips about the common cold including: causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention, and when to make a visit to the doctor.

What causes the common cold?

  • Contrary to what you may think, the common cold is caused by viruses and not bacteria.
  • There are over 200 different viruses that can cause cold symptoms.
  • 30-50% are called rhinoviruses that typically do not progress to serious illness.
  • Viruses survive better in dry, cold environments.
  • As the weather gets colder, people spend more time indoors, which allows for the viruses to be more easily passed from person to person.
  • The cold, dry air can also make the lining of your nose dry, putting you at more risk for viral infection.
  • Cold temperature itself has not been shown to increase your chance of getting a cold!

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms usually begin 2 to 3 days after infection and include:
    • Cough
    • Sneezing
    • Sore throat
    • Stuffy nose and/or swelling of your sinuses
    • Headache
    • Tiredness
    • These symptoms usually last 7-10 days and will go away on their own.
    • Fever is uncommon, but may be more common in children.

I don’t feel good, what should I do?

  • There is no cure, but there are a few things you can do to help manage your symptoms:
    • REST!! You can never get enough rest when your body is under stress and trying to fight an infection.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Gargle with warm salt water for a scratchy or sore throat.
    • Use Vaseline to soothe a dry nose.
    • Over-the-counter medications can also be used to manage symptoms.
      • Stop by the pharmacy counter if you ever have questions about which medication to choose. We are here for YOU!
      • Decongestants or saline nasal sprays can help a stuffy nose.
      • Antihistamines can help a runny nose and some can be used at night to help you sleep.
      • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), can help relieve headaches, aches, and pains and they also work to lower fevers.
      • Cough suppressants are available, as well, such as dextromethorphan or cough drops.
      • For information on choosing cold products, visit: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/cold-medicine-treatment-when-what-how

How can I prevent transmission of the common cold?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (alcohol-based products can be used as well).
  • The virus can live up to 3 hours on objects in your home, so make sure to keep your surfaces clean!
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

When should I call my doctor?

  • If your cold is lasting longer than 2 weeks.
  • If you have a fever over 100.4°F
  • If you have a fever that lasts longer than 3 days.
  • If you are coughing up mucus, especially if it is a dark brown color.
  • If you are having trouble breathing.

The common cold is not called “common” because it is rare, so make sure to take the proper precautions to stay safe and healthy this winter. Don’t forget to enjoy the snow as it makes itself more plentiful, pick up a good book, check out some new movies, or get a head start on the holiday season!

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