A viral infection in the upper respiratory system is what we refer to as the common cold. Everyone is familiar with the symptoms, as one billion colds are experienced in the United States every year. A congested, runny nose, sneezing, and often times it is accompanied by a cough, sore throat, headaches or additional discomforts. More frequently occurring than any other type of illness, children attending school (and their parents) are most susceptible to getting colds. In fact, children acquire upper respiratory infections about 6 to 10 times per year on average. Typically, adults catch a cold between two to four times per year, but for those who have or work with children, the average shifts.
As personal experience tells us, cold viruses are more popular in the winter or rainy seasons. The virus becomes airborne when a person coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose, making others nearby susceptible to breathing in the microscopic air particles carrying the cold. You can either catch a cold this way, or by touching your nose, mouth, or eyes after touching a surface or object where the virus is living. The peak period of contagiousness is the first 2 to 3 days, and the cold is generally not contagious after the first week.
Symptoms being around 2 or 3 days after being affected by the virus, and at times it may take up to a week to experience symptoms. The nose is the most highly affected area, with the symptoms of congestion, sneezing, and postnasal drip. Since it is difficult to breathe through your nostrils, you will likely also get a dry, scratchy throat. Though fever is not a common symptom for adults and older children, smaller children will usually have a temperature of 100 to 102℉. Symptoms can also vary for those who are affected by different types of the cold virus, including cough, sore throat, muscle aches, weakness, headache, and reduced appetite.
What’s the worst-case scenario with a cold? Your cold symptoms could lead to bronchitis, sinusitis, an ear infection, or pneumonia. It is also the most typical trigger of asthma symptoms for children.
Now that you understand the common cold, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to rid yourself of the virus or ease your symptoms without spending much money or visiting a doctor.
Various treatments are available for the common cold, as you likely have experimented with some already. Over-the-counter medications for cold symptoms always seem to be a go-to for most people, but there are also ways to help your body recover naturally. There is no prescription medication that can help relieve or resolve a cold, so going to the doctor is unnecessary – with exception of persisting symptoms for more than 10 days to two weeks. In that case, you may have acquired a bacterial infection along the way, and antibiotics will help. Otherwise, antibiotics can worsen a person’s condition if they only have a viral infection.
Cold medicines available over-the-counter are not recommended for children under age 6. It is necessary to consult your physician prior to giving your child a cold medicine, regardless of packaging intended for children. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, such treatments are unlikely to help and may cause serious side effects.
Your body needs rest, fluids and a few days of taking it easy to allow the virus to run its course. You can ease symptoms naturally by taking herbs like echinacea, which is found in herbal cough drops, teas, and capsules, or increasing your daily dose of vitamin C. Echinacea is known to increase immune function, though no research studies advocate its effectiveness.
Zinc can be used as a preventative treatment for colds. Taking zinc for at least five days could lower your susceptibility to the virus, and if you take zinc within 24 hours of first experiencing symptoms, you may be able to recover more quickly. Call your doctor before taking any herbal supplements to prevent an allergic reaction or a negative impact on your current medications.
Chicken soup has also been a successful remedy for colds. The combination of steam, fluid, and salt have been shown in several studies to have a positive effect on cold and flu symptoms. Though the effects may be purely psychological, the soup is worth a try to help you get over a cold.
How Health Insurance Can Help With a Cold
Although you can beat a cold without setting foot in the doctor’s office, health insurance can help even with the slightest of illnesses by giving you security in the event that your sickness worsens, or you need medical advice before starting a treatment. Being without a health plan means being without a primary care provider, your reference for any major health decision you make. While many of us have tested out different remedies, if you try something new, it is well advised to discuss the potential outcomes with your doctor.
Having a health plan keeps you safe if your symptoms persist, providing access to diagnostic tests and prescriptions for a much lower cost than a retail clinic or urgent care center. Research your options if you are uninsured, because even the most common illness can have greater health risks.
1. EWIMA Healthcare. Common Cold.
2. PubMed Health. Common Cold.