How a Common Cold Starts

You can catch it from another person who is infected with the virus. This can happen by direct physical contact with someone who has a cold, or by touching a surface contaminated with their germs — like a computer keyboard, doorknob or spoon — and then touching your nose or mouth. You can also catch it from infected droplets in the air released by a sneeze or a cough. A cold begins when a virus attaches to the lining of your nose or throat. Your immune system — the body’s defense against germs — sends out white blood cells  to attack this invader. Unless you’ve had a run-in with that exact strain of the virus before, the initial attack fails and your body sends in reinforcements. Your nose and throat get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. With so much of your energy directed at fighting the cold virus, you’re left feeling tired and miserable.
One myth that needs to get busted: Getting chilly or wet doesn’t cause you to get sick. But there are things that make you prone to come down with a cold. For example, you’re more likely to catch one if you’re extremely tired, under emotional distress, or have allergies with nose and throat symptoms.

Common Cold Symptoms

When a cold strikes, you may have symptoms like:
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Mucus draining from your nose into your throat
More severe symptoms, such as high fever or muscle aches, may be a sign that you have the flu rather than a cold.  

Kids and Colds

Children have about 5-7 colds per year. A big part of the reason: They spend time at school or in day care centers where they’re in close contact with other kids most of the day. Also, kids aren’t as conscientious about sneezing into the crook of their arm or frequent hand washing — not to mention keeping their hands to themselves. And to top it off, their young immune systems aren’t yet strong enough to fight off colds.

Preparing for Cold Season

In the U.S., most colds happen during the fall and winter. Beginning in late August or early September, the rate increases slowly for a few weeks and remains high until March or April, when it goes down. The reason may partly have to do with the opening of schools. Cold weather may also play a role because it leads you to spend more time indoors, where you’re in closer contact with people who are contagious. Changes in humidity in different seasons may also affect how often people get sick. The most common cold viruses survive better when it’s low. Also, cold weather may make the lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to an infection by a virus.

When to Call the Doctor About a Cold

Most colds last about 7 to 10 days, but if your symptoms linger, you may need to call the doctor. Sometimes, colds lead to an infection by bacteria in in your lungssinuses, or ears. If that happens, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, which work against bacteria but not against viruses.
via webmd.com
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