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  Allergy, Cold or Flu:  

  Cold

Over 200 different types of viruses can cause a cold. Rhinoviruses, which means "nose viruses", are the most common cause. Respiratory syncitial viruses (RSV) and a host of others can produce colds. Of note, influenza viruses occasionally cause illnesses with symptoms of the common cold.

The three most frequent symptoms of a cold are nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and runny nose. Throat irritation is often involved (but not with a red throat). Adults and older children with colds generally have minimal or no fever. Infants and toddlers often run a fever in the 100 to 102 degree range.

Depending on which virus is the culprit, the virus might also produce a headache, cough, postnasal drip, burning eyes, muscle aches, or a decreased appetite, but in a cold, the most prominent symptoms are in the nose. (By the way, forcing a child to eat with a decreased appetite due to a cold is both unnecessary and unhelpful, but do encourage drinking plenty).

If anything, using the term "common" with cold is an understatement. Colds are the most prevalent infectious disease. Children average 3 to 8 colds per year (younger children and boys are on the higher end of the range). Colds occur mostly in the winter (even in areas with mild winters). In areas where there is no winter, colds are most common in the rainy season. Parents get about half as many colds as their children do. Moms tend to get at least one more cold per year than dads.

When someone has a cold, the nasal secretions are teeming with cold viruses. Coughing, drooling, and talking are all unlikely ways to pass a cold. But sneezing, nose-blowing, and nose-wiping are the means by which the virus spreads. You can catch a cold by inhaling the virus if you are sitting close to a sneeze, or by touching your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by infected nasal secretions.

Once you have "caught" a cold, the symptoms begin in 1 to 5 days. Usually irritation in the nose or a scratchy feeling in the throat is the first sign, followed within hours by sneezing and a watery nasal discharge.

Within one to three days, the nasal secretions usually become thicker and perhaps yellow or green -- this is a normal part of the common cold and not a reason for antibiotics. During this period, children's eardrums are usually congested, and there may well be fluid behind the ears -- whether or not the child will end up with a true bacterial infection.


The entire cold is usually over all by itself in about 7 days, with perhaps a few lingering symptoms (cough) for another week. If it lasts longer, consider another problem, such as a sinus infection or allergies.

While it lasts, the common cold is primarily a head cold. While you may feel tired or have aches, the illness is centered in the nose, and most of the symptoms are above the neck.  
 


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