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Common Cold
(Viral Rhinitis)

Definition:
The common cold is a viral infection leading to inflammation of the upper respiratory tract (nasal passages and throat).

Causes:
There are over 200 different viruses known to be responsible for the common cold, including:
  • Rhinovirus
  • Corona virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Coxsackie virus
  • Paramyxovirus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus
Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
  • Exposure to infected individuals
  • Touching one’s nose, mouth or eyes with contaminated fingers
  • Personal history of allergies (lengthens duration of cold)
  • Smoking cigarettes or frequent exposure to cigarette smoke due to decreased resistance
  • Stress due to decreased resistance
  • Sex: Female (especially around menstrual periods)
Symptoms:
Symptoms include:
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Thin mucus discharge from the nose (runny nose)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, stuffed sensation in the ears
  • Watery eyes
  • Slight cough
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains
  • Decreased energy
  • Low-grade fever
Diagnosis:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and the findings of your physical exam.

Treatment:
There are no treatments that cure the common cold. However, a number of treatments can help relieve the symptoms, including:

Pain Relievers
Acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen can be used to treat the aches and pains.

Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child or teen aspirin.

Decongestants
Pills or nasal sprays can shrink the nasal passages and decrease mucus production. Nasal sprays should only be used for 2-3 days, however. If you use them for longer periods of time, when you stop using them you may suffer from increased congestion (called rebound congestion).

Fluids
Drinks lots of fluids. Warm beverages and chicken soup are particularly soothing, and help reduce congestion.

Humidifier
A cool mist humidifier can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion. Be sure to clean the humidifier thoroughly every day.

Saline Nose Drops
Nose drops may provide relief from congestion.

Vitamin C
For prevention and treatment of colds, antioxidants like vitamin C have no proven benefit—unless, of course, you’re vitamin deficient. (Other alternative therapies that have not been proven include zinc lozenges and echinacea.)

Salt Water Gargle
Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.

Over-the-Counter Cough Drops
Using throat lozenges as needed every couple of hours can help relieve sore throat and cough.

Prevention:
The most important way to prevent getting or spreading a cold is by washing your hands thoroughly and frequently. Keep hands away from nose, mouth and eyes. Minimize exposure to infected individuals. Reduce or eliminate smoking. Although many people think that taking high doses of vitamin C can reduce the chance of catching a cold, research has not proven this.
 
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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