It’s that time of the year again! You can feel the tickle in the back of your throat, the slight discomfort of a stuffy nose and you’ve diagnosed the problem. You have a cold! A cold usually includes a runny nose, sore throat, coughing, mild headache, watery eyes, body aches, and sneezing.
The “common cold” can be caused by over 200 virus, with the most common being the rhinovirus. These viruses often cause a runny nose first as they infect the nose and sinuses. The nose makes a clear mucus that can be contagious. The mucus also helps wash the germs from the nose and sinuses, which is great! The mucus can turn yellow or become thicker as your immune system works to fight against the virus. The mucous can also turn green as the bacteria that live in the nose grow and change the color. This does not mean you have a new or worse infection and may not be an indication for antibiotics. To treat a runny nose, first watch and wait. A soft cloth to wipe the mucus is helpful. A cool mist vaporizer or salt water nose drops may help you or your child feel better. As these are viral infections, antibiotics will not help you feel better.
Most colds will resolve on their own within 10 days. You should see a doctor if you have any of the following:
- Temperature greater than 100.4 degrees F
- Symptoms lasting over 10 days
- Symptoms not relieved by over the counter medications
Your doctor will be able to determine if the cold is on its way to resolution or if you need medications to support you through the symptoms you have. Antibiotics are always considered if there is concern for a bacterial infection. Antibiotics not needed to treat a cold or runny nose as these are caused by viruses.
Why not just try an antibiotic? Unfortunately, every time your body is exposed to an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live on your body (on the skin, intestines, nose, mouth, etc) have a higher chance of becoming resistant to antibiotics. There is also always a risk of side effects that may result in rashes, diarrhea, stomach pain, allergic reactions and organ damage.
So what is the good news? The common cold is usually resolves within 7-10 days.
What can you do to feel better?
- Rest! Rest! Rest!
- Drink Fluids
- Use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
- Take ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen for body aches or fever
- Over the counter medications such as decongestants, pain relievers, nasal saline sprays are extremely helpful. Remember to always follow the instructions for use on any medication. Not all OTCs are recommended for younger children.
- Practice good hygiene http://www.oopkids.com/clean_hands.html
- Avoid close contact with those with upper respiratory infections or colds