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Home Health Disease Health Cold, Flu, & Cough
About Cold, Flu, & Cough

Progression

A cold usually begins with fatigue, a feeling of being chilled, sneezing and a headache, followed in a couple of days by a runny nose and cough.Symptoms may begin within 16 hours of exposure and typically peak two to four days after onset.They usually resolve in seven to ten days but some can last for up to three weeks.The average duration of cough is 18 days and in some cases people develop a post-viral cough which can linger after the infection is gone. In children, the cough lasts for more than ten days in 35–40% of the cases and continues for more than 25 days in 10%.

Cause

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses known for causing the common cold. They have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope.

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The most commonly implicated virus is a rhinovirus (30–80%), a type of picornavirus with 99 known serotypes.Others include: human coronavirus (~15%),influenza viruses (10-15%), adenoviruses (5%),human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, enteroviruses other than rhinoviruses, and metapneumovirus. Frequently more than one virus is present. In total over 200 different viral types are associated with colds.

Transmission

The common cold virus is typically transmitted via airborne droplets (aerosols), direct contact with infected nasal secretions, or fomites (contaminated objects) Which of these routes is of primary importance has not been determined; however, hand-to-hand and hand-to-surface-to-hand contact seems of more importance than transmission via aerosols.

Prevention

The only possibly useful ways to reduce the spread of cold viruses are physical measures such as hand washing and face masks; in the healthcare environment, gowns and disposable gloves are also used.Isolation, e.g. quarantine, is not possible as the disease is so widespread and symptoms are non-specific. Vaccination has proved difficult as there are so many viruses involved and they mutate rapidly. Creation of a broadly effective vaccine is thus highly improbable.

Prognosis

The common cold is generally mild and self-limiting with most symptoms generally improving in a week. Half of cases go away in 10 days and 90% in 15 days. Severe complications, if they occur, are usually in the very old, the very young, or those who are immunosuppressed. Secondary bacterial infections may occur resulting in sinusitis, pharyngitis, or an ear infection. It is estimated that sinusitis occurs in 8% and an ear infection in 30% of cases.

Epidemiology

The common cold is the most common human disease,and affects people all over the globe. Adults typically have two to five infections annually and children may have six to ten colds a year (and up to twelve colds a year for school children). Rates of symptomatic infections increase in the elderly due to a worsening immune system.

Native Americans and Inuit are more likely to be infected with colds and develop complications such as otitis media more often than Caucasians. This may be explained by issues such as poverty and overcrowding rather than by ethnicity.

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