Common Cold Overview
The common cold is viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It is most commonly caused by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. The symptoms are sore throat, cough, stuffy and runny nose, sneezing, and fever. Patients may also complain about burning sensation in the eyes and mild headache. Unfortunately, there is no cure to reduce the length of the symptoms of common cold. However, the condition is acute and all the symptoms and signs withdraw spontaneously within 7-10 days. Some symptoms may linger for weeks.
This is definitely the most common infectious illness in humans. Unlike influenza which also affects the lungs, common cold affects only the upper respiratory tract and never spreads onto the lower portion of the respiratory tract.
Common Cold Contagious Period
Many people wonder how long a common cold is contagious. The scientists have not identified the actual length of common cold contagiousness. Still some of the research confirmed that people become contagious 2-3 days before they develop symptoms of the infection. And it's believed that a person is infective until all the symptoms of the infection withdraw. So the actual length of this period would be approximately two weeks.
The incubation period for common cold lasts 2-5 days. The person suffering from a common cold is definitely most infective during the first two weeks when the symptoms are the most intensive. The infection is highly likely to be transmitted the within 2 to day 4 of the onset. Coughing and sneezing increase the chance of viral transmission. Basically any kind of close contact with the infected person may allow a spread of the droplets and transmission of the disease. Apart from a direct entrance of the virus the infection can result after hand-to-hand contact and sharing personal items.
Common Cold: Treatment and Prevention
Prevention of the spread of the infection can be achieved by intake of vitamins, proper and thorough hygiene of the hands and abstaining from any contact with sick people. One should avoid touching his/ her eyes, nose or mouth particularly with unwashed hands. And finally if one uses handkerchiefs the best option is to use disposable ones.
Since common cold represents viral infection there is no special cure against it. The symptoms of the infection subside spontaneously after 7 to 10 days. However, there is a way to relieve some symptoms such as nasal congestion or headache. Doctors may prescribe nasal decongestants, some pain relievers, medications for fever etc. The person is advised to stay in bed, drink plenty of fluids especially hot drinks such as tea and soup. And finally, sometimes vitamin supplements (vitamin C) may be helpful.