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The cold is an infection of the nose and the throat,caused by a virus.

                        Did you say “cold”?

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What is a cold?

A cold is a frequent nose (more precisely of nasal cavities) and throat infection caused by a virus. This infection is also called rhinitis (viral or acute) provoke throat pains, sneezing, nasal congestion and runny nose. Symptoms appear gradually and last for 5 to 7days (maximum 2 weeks).

There are more than 200 viruses causing cold. The most common belong to one family or the other: rhinovirus or coronavirus.

The body encounters and neutralises cold viruses several times a year. When a cold occurs it is because the immune system did not manage to get rid of the virus.

Cold reaches young children in particular because their immune system is developing and because they are more often in contact with viruses causing cold.

 

Prevalence

Before the age of 2 some children may contract up to 10 colds each year. For children going at school the number of colds per year is approximately of 6 and then the frequency diminishes along with age. We count up 2 to 3 colds each year for an adult.

From the beginning of autumn and until the end of spring, colds are more frequent. We spend more time indoor and therefore contagion increases. During winter also the air is generally dryer indoor which dries up nasal mucus membrane, hence less efficient to fight against viruses and to prevent from cold. In Southern countries colds are more frequent during rainy season.

 

Contagion

A cold is a contagious disease. In order to provoke a cold, cold related viruses need first to settle on mucus membrane of nose, eyes or mouth. As opposed to the skin, mucus membranes do not constitute a hermetic barrier against germs. Conversely they represent a hospitable area for germs. Viruses can reach mucus membranes if we inhale infected small drops issued for instance when someone sneezes or coughs. Cold spreads also when there is a hand contact with an infected person or object (glasses, toys...), hands to mouth, eyes or nose. The incubation period varies between 12 hours to several days.

 

Possible complications

The cold in itself does not lead to any complication. Nevertheless the cold weakens mucus membranes which could be “colonized” by germs afterwards. This case is called secondary bacterial infection. Signs for this latter are thickened runny nose as well as the symptoms extension during several weeks.

Germs can also cause other infections further to a cold. For children thus the most frequent complication is the ear infection. A persistent cold can degenerate into a sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis and even, but more rarely, into pneumonia.

A cold can create herpes simplex causing labial and genital herpes by weakening the organism.

For children under 5 years old, some cold responsible viruses can create more serious illness such as croup ( hoarseness, noisy breathing, and noisy cough) or bronchiolitis (wheezing, difficulties to breathe normally).

 

When should you consult a doctor?

In case of simple cold a medical advice is not necessary compulsory. In the majority of cases symptoms disappear without any treatment within a week. However if one of the following signs is showed (inducing complication), we advise you to consult a doctor:

  • Intense symptoms affecting the whole body such as fever (39.5 Celsius degrees or 103F or more), shivers, sweat or headaches.
  • Nasal secretions lasting for more than 10 days which sometimes become thickened and yellowish.
  • Persistent pains in ears during, conjunctivitis, or intense pains in face of forehead (sinusitis).
  • Cough lasting for more than 7 days after all symptoms’ extinction.
  • For children: persistent tears or rapid breathing, blue lips .
                    Cough serious enough to make them throwing up or suffocating.
  • Wheezing breathing .
  • For infant (less than 4 months) a cold has to be treated because it can lead to a respiratory failure.

 

Cold symptoms

  • Throat pains (which is generally the first symptom).
  • Sneezing and nasal congestion.
  • Runny nose. Secretions are however quite pale.
  • Slight fatigue.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Slight headaches.
  • Sometimes a cough.
  • Sometimes fever (one degree above the average).
  • Wheezing breathing for asthmatic children.

 

At-risk people

  • Young children: the majority of children has their first cold before 1 ½ year old and remains particularly vulnerable until they reach 6 because of their immature immune system .
  • Children’s environment (school, kinder garden…) increases their exposition to catch a cold. Colds become less frequent while becoming older.
  • Persons having a vitiated immune system because of medicine or disease.

 

Risk factors

Stress: it diminishes the immune system and predispose to cold.

Extreme physical activity: High level athlete would be more exposed to cold.

 

Preventions

Hygiene measures

  • Washing hands regularly and teach children to do so. This is the number one measure to learn and to prevent from cold.
  • Do not share personal items (glasses, cups, flannel…) with someone infected and avoid being too close to that person .
  • Do not bring your hands to face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose by sneezing or coughing or cough in the in the hollow of your elbow. .
  • If possible, stay at home to avoid infecting other people.

 

Health habits

To acquire a good infection resistance:

  • Practice exercise and select carefully your food (limit cow dairy produce, gluten contributions and food favouring acidity).
  • Get enough sleep .
  • Do not smoke. Tobacco irritates respiratory tracts and increases the risk of infection and complications linked to colds.
  • Control stress. During stressful period allocate some of your time to relaxation, restful moments, diminish activities in case of overwork…

 

Some tips to improve your comfort

Following measures have been recommended by doctors. It is better to implement them when first symptoms happen.

  • To have restful moments in order to help the immune system .
  • Drink at least 2 liters of water and other beverages per day to avoid dehydration (hot beverages, soups, fruit tea) bringing comfort.
  • To relieve throat pain, gargle tepid water with salt in your throat several times per day.
  • To get your nose clear, use a saline solution to apply in your nose (including children as well). In order to facilitate the application, lie on your back and lean back your head. You can also find sprays which are easier to use. Clean first your nostrils with a cotton bud. Apply other drops of saline solution into your nose. Wipe your nose or for young children remove the nasal mucus with a rubber suction bulb.
  • Use essential oils to cure pr for prevention.

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For ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) illnesses, I advise you to:

  • Suppress cow dairy products .
  • Limit gluten contributions in order to preserve your intestine: immune system’s localization.
  • Favour raw vegetables and fresh fruits (between meals).
  • For vulnerable people, set up right at the beginning of autumn season a diet composed of immunoregulatory plants to prepare your organism to fight against disease during sensitive times.

 

In addition to these measures, I advise you: