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Common Cold: Health Risk and Management


Common Cold: Health Risk and Management

Common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It is a contagious disease caused by over two hundred different types of viruses. Because there are so many viruses which cause cold, the body cannot build up resistance against all of them.It is the most frequently occurring disease in the world. Adults have about two episodes while children have about eight to twelve episodes annually.

Cold is spread by having direct contact with secretions infected from contaminated surfaces or by inhalation of viruses that are airborne after a person sneezes or coughs. Transmission can occur when someone who has a cold touches or blows their nose and then touches something or someone else. An uninfected person who has a direct contact with these secretions subsequently gets infected. Cold viruses can live on objects such as computer key boards, cups, pens, books, mobile devices etc for several hours. It is usually very contagious in the first two or three days of illness.


The symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, cough, sore throat, hoarse voice and low grade fever.

Health Risk Factors

  1. Seasons: It is common to get cold during the rainy season in temperate regions, winter, spring and fall in other regions. This doesn’t mean that cold weather causes common cold. It occurs because people spend more time in close proximity to one another, humidity is low and viruses have a better chance at survival therefore, chances of getting a cold is high.
  2. Age: Children are more likely to catch cold or get contaminated because their immune system is not fully developed.
  3. Weak Immunity: People with a weak immune system are more likely to get a cold.


Generally, it takes about 10 days for a cold to run its course however, if it takes longer than that, you need to see a doctor. Some individuals may develop a bacterial infection that would need to be treated. For pregnant women, it is advisable not to self-medicate rather they should consult a doctor for proper management of the cold.


Common cold has no cure however, it resolves with time. Some home remedies may help relieve the symptoms. These include taking a lot of fluid, resting, taking over-the-counter drugs like cough syrups (in case of a cough), throat lozenges, decongestants such as antihistamines (Loratidine) or Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). In case of a fever, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used. These drugs will not shorten the duration of the cold but will help to manage the symptoms.

In Nigeria, many people use home remedies like ginger, lime and honey in warm water.


The most significant prevention or management method for cold is avoiding contact with an infected person. Other preventive measured are:
1. Encouraging people to cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing
2. Regular and thorough washing of hands
3. Avoid sharing utensil such as spoons and cups with infected persons
4. Avoid sharing personal belongings such as handkerchiefs, towels etc.

Important Note:  Antibiotics are not a drug of choice for treating cold because cold is a viral infection and it has no cure however, when a bacterial infection sets in while managing the symptoms, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics if necessary. There is currently no effective vaccine against cold.

Referrals: | | |

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