Common cold is a very common medical condition and nearly every human must have at least one episode of common cold before reaching adulthood. Common cold is a self-limiting respiratory condition meaning that the body can mount sufficient immune response to tackle the disease. It is caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract including the throat and the nose. This medical condition is infectious and it affects humans worldwide.
How is common cold contacted? The offending viruses are transmitted via infected respiratory droplets that are inhaled into the nose, hand-nose-eye contact with infected persons and via for mites like sharing of towels and handkerchiefs. This makes it highly infectious and can be transmitted among thousands of individuals within a short period of time.
Common viruses that cause common cold are respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinoviruses, influenza viruses, para-influenza viruses and adenoviruses. It is important to note that the incidence of common cold is highest during the rainy season and tends to dip during the dry season. This is because the viruses tend to thrive better during the rainy season. We have seen many people being treated with different drugs including herbal medications at a pocket draining amount because of common cold which is generally a self-limiting disease.
However, in clinical practice physicians do give antibiotics but such medications does not target the viruses but it is used to prevent the occurrence of secondary bacterial infection i.e. bacteria causing a superimposed infection because of the damaged upper respiratory tract caused by the viruses. In this article, we are going to discuss 10 common symptoms of common cold we must all know.
1. Nasal congestion: This is by virtue the most common and first symptom of common cold and most patients have attributed great discomfort to this symptom. Due to presence of invading viruses, there is an increase in the secretion of mucus by the cells that line the nose and upper airway leading to blockage by this mucus. This can impair sleep and causes patients severe discomfort.
2. Difficulty in breathing: Difficulty in breathing is as a result of partial or complete blockage of the airway by mucus secreted by the airway. This can be severe and may affect quality of life.
3. Cough: This is another important symptom of common cold caused by the irritation of the airway. It may be initially dry and may proceed to be productive of mucus if there is a secondary bacterial infection. All cases of cough should prompt early medical evaluation by a physician.
4. Nasal discharge: The accumulation of excess mucus within the airway gives rises to nasal discharge seen as the discharge of a clear watery or tenacious fluid from the nose. This is another important symptom of common cold
5. Sneezing: Severe sneezing associated with common cold is usually worse in the early hours of the morning or after a heavy rainfall because of the cold weather. Such symptom may indicate the onset of common cold
6. Hoarseness of voice: During episodes of common cold, patients frequently experience hoarseness of voice caused by affectation of the vocal cords
7. Fever: This is a rare symptom of common cold but a slight fever may be present at the onset of the disease. High grade fever (associated with chills and rigor) usually indicates the possibility of a secondary bacterial infection
8. Headaches: During episodes of common cold, headaches also occur. This may be as a result of production of certain chemicals by the body in response to the invading viruses, straining to clear the nasal discharge and poor sleep from nasal congestion.
9. Eye changes: Common cold is a viral infection and such viruses also cause conjunctivitis which is the infection of the eyes characterized by red, watery and painful eyes. In Nigeria, it’s commonly referred to as ‘Apollo’. Conjunctivitis occurs from transfer of the viruses from the nose to the eyes by the affected individual. This accounts for the increase frequency of both infections during the cold season.
10. Constitutional symptoms: These are symptoms caused by the body reaction to the invading organisms. These include: anorexia, nausea, vomiting, ear pain with ear tugging commonly seen in children and generalized body weakness.
The above symptoms are the 10 common symptoms of common cold we must all know because failure to identify common cold may lead to severe and life threatening complication and most importantly, early symptomatic treatment is all we need to effective combat common cold.