Protecting yourself against common colds

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Friday, January 24, 2014

IT’S BEEN raining for two straight weeks and whether or not this is brought about by climate change or just a typical rainy weather, anyone exposed to the viruses that thrive well in this wet season is at risk of catching common colds.

The ‘Comprehensive Manual for Health Education’ informs that the common cold is a respiratory infection caused by more than 200 different viruses.

It also states that “one-third of all colds are caused by ‘rhinoviruses.’”


It is thought that this virus infects the nose of the victim with increased chances if the person is under stress.

However, “being exposed to cold weather [alone] or getting wet or chilled does not cause a common cold,” it emphasizes.

The method of transmitting the viruses that cause the common colds is explained as follows:

“Cold viruses are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

After which, “these viruses can remain in the air for a while, thus, people can inhale them and get infected.”

However, “people can also become infected by shaking hands with infected person or by touching objects contaminated with the viruses,” it emphasizes.

To prevent catching cold, “the most effective way is to wash hands frequently and avoid touching the nose or eyes.”

According to ‘Microbiology: An Introduction,’ 15 to 20 percent of common cold cases are caused by coronaviruses and about 10 to 40 percent are caused by other viruses with some remained to be with unidentified causative agents.

“We tend to accumulate immunities against cold viruses during our lifetime, which may be the reason why older people tend to get fewer colds.”

As a matter of fact, “isolated populations may develop group immunity, and their colds disappear until new set of viruses is introduced,” it points.

“There are at least 113 serotypes of rhinoviruses alone, [as such] a vaccine effective against so many different pathogens does not seem practical.”

According to ‘Brunner & Suddarth’s Medical-Surgical Nursing,’ the clinical manifestations of a common cold include: nasal congestion, nasal dripping, sneezing, sore throat, and generalized body weakness.

It explains that the symptoms usually last from one to two weeks with the presence of respiratory complaints enumerated above, headache and muscle ache but in the absence of fever that typically lasts from one to two weeks.

“If there is significant fever or more severe systemic respiratory symptoms, it is no longer a common cold but [possibly] other upper respiratory tract infection,” it maintains.

Likewise, “allergic conditions can also affect the nose mimicking the symptoms of a cold.”

Lastly, it informs that there is no specific treatment for the common cold as management consists of symptomatic therapy: you treat the specific signs and symptoms one at a time.

For example, you take paracetamol or ibuprofen for fever or body aches.

It also suggests some of the measures to treat the common colds which include the following interventions: increasing your fluid intake; encouraging rest; preventing chilling; increasing intake of ascorbic acid or vitamin C; use of warm salt-water gargles if experiencing sore throats; and the use of over-the counter medications for symptoms like fever and nasal congestion.

Most literatures maintain that common colds are self-limiting, meaning, they just go away after a while once our immune system takes over.

While it’s true that our immune system can do its job very well, isn’t it better if prevent catching the colds to begin with?

On the other hand, the ‘Managing Chronic Disorders’ advises the following preventive measures to avoid catching the common colds:

(1) Avoid crowds and people with colds;
(2) Check with your healthcare provider before you get immunizations especially those that contain live but weakened virus;
(3) Wash your hands thoroughly before eating; and
(4) Practice good oral and personal hygiene.

As what most healthcare professionals have used as an overused cliché, “an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure!”



Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 24, 2014.


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