By Moboluwarin Ogunleye
You’re sneezing every five minutes, coughing, and your throat is burning. You can’t seem to swallow any food without a burning feeling in your throat. A few hours later, you keep looking for tissue for relief from your constant runny nose. At this point, you should know these are the symptoms of a cold. In this premiere university, in the past few weeks, you might have noticed that people are either coughing, sniffling, or producing sneezing sounds or you might have been a victim yourself.
What is a cold?
A cold, according to the oxford dictionary, is a common infection in which the mucous membrane of the nose and throat becomes inflamed. It’s a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, and the most common causes of colds are Rhino-viruses. Colds also come from Coronaviruses, Parainfluenza viruses, Coxsackie viruses, Adenoviruses, Echo viruses, and respiratory syncytial viruses. Infection from a cold happens as a result of contact with one of the hundreds of strains of viruses like the ones listed above.
However, against popular opinion, cold and catarrh are not the same things. Catarrh is usually caused by the immune system responding to an infection or irritation which causes the lining of your throat to become swollen and produce mucus. Catarrh is usually caused by a cold, but can also be caused by other diseases like hay fever, sinusitis, or other types of allergic diseases. Apart from the apparent discomfort caused by the mucus secretion, catarrh is usually harmless and Doctors sometimes refer to catarrh as postnasal drip. Symptoms of catarrh include; headache, facial pain, sore throat, and blocked or stuffy nose among others.
How do you know you have a cold?
Usual symptoms of a common cold include:
- Persistent Cough
- Stuffy nose/sinus congestion
- Sore throat
- Feeling generally unwell
- Skin sensitivity
- Muscle aches/weakness
- A hoarse voice, also known as laryngitis
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
How did you get a cold?
Generally, your body absorbs bodily secretions from coughing, sneezing, or hand-to-hand contact through the exposed mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). Shaking hands, kissing, opening doors, working out at the gym, exchanging food or drinks, handling money, or being close to an infected individual in a classroom, hostel, or cafeteria are all simple methods to spread the cold. Due to the large number of people who are continually in close proximity to one another on the university of Ibadan campus, respiratory ailments are particularly prevalent here. The common cold can be contracted at any time of year, but it is more prevalent during the harmattan seasons.
Additionally, the current wave of the common cold at the University of Ibadan can be attributed to the current high-stress levels among students at the university. Midterms are coming for most students, and in the aftermath of the tests, the end-of-semester exams are in a few weeks. It’s natural that the workload on students and stress load is generally high at this time. And studies have shown that the greater your stress levels, the less the effectiveness of your immune system. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, long-term stress weakens the responses of your immune system. “That’s because stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte levels, the more you’re at risk for viruses like the common cold,” explains Nadia Hasan, DO, a physician at Delaney Internal Medicine. To reduce your chances of catching a cold, good hygiene is advised; washing your hands regularly, changing your pillowcase and bed-sheets weekly, and cleaning your personal space (tables, chairs, door handles) with antiseptic wipes regularly. A healthy diet is also advised.
What to do when you have a cold
A common misconception is that colds last for just a few days, or that it will go in 3-5 days. In general, colds can last 1-3 days, and nasal congestion/sinus pressure can last 5-10 days. Coughs usually last a couple of weeks but may disturb you for about 3-4 weeks. In general, antibiotics are of no use against a cold and should not be used when you have a cold unless otherwise directed by your doctor. For a fever or a headache, it’s advised that you turn to mild pain relievers like paracetamol, use these medications for the shortest time possible and turn to a doctor if you have questions about getting the correct dose.
Although cold treatments are almost as widespread as cold themselves, are they effective? A cold is incurable. However, there are certain treatments that could help reduce your symptoms and stop you from feeling so awful. Here are various treatments for the common cold and what is known about them;
- Be sure to stay hydrated. Congestion can be eased and dehydration avoided by drinking fluids such as water, juice, clear soup, or warm lemon water with honey. Stay away from beverages such as alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated drinks if you’re already dehydrated as they only worsen dehydration.
- According to Mayo Clinic, A saltwater gargle of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Alternatively, you could try ice chips, hard candy, or lozenges for relief from sore throats.
Natural remedies, such as honey, ginger, and lemon juice have been found to have some benefits for cold symptoms. According to The Guardian Nigeria, Lemon and honey have been recommended to be the go-to treatment for coughs and colds instead of instantly reaching for antibiotics, which according to new advice makes little difference to symptoms and can have side effects.
- Finally, one of the best things to do when you have a cold is to rest. Now is the moment to boost your body’s immune system. The easiest method to accomplish this is to get plenty of rest and sleep. Make sure you’re sleeping between eight to 10 hours at night (if you can). This is also an excellent opportunity to take a vacation from hard activity for two or three days during this time period.