Information on Head Cold and Head Cold Relief

A head cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat, often referred to as the “common cold”. It is generally not dangerous, although it can be a great nuisance, so when you have it, you might not feel it is that harmless. The symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion and cough. Since a very large number of viruses can cause a cold, the symptoms can be different from case to case.

During the year, most people tend to get at least one head cold. It is estimated that the average adult will suffer it 2 - 4 times in the span of a year, while the number is much higher for younger children, who can have it up to 10 times a year. 

Generally it takes about 1 – 2 weeks to recover from a cold, if you feel no better after two weeks, it is recommended to consult your doctor.

What Causes a Cold?

The most frequent cause of a head cold is the rhino virus, but in fact, more than 200 viruses can be the cause.

The virus spreads in a few different ways. If someone has a cold and sneezes, coughs, or, even, talks, the virus can spread through droplets in the air. But it can also spread through contact with shared utilities, for example toys, glasses, towels and telephones. Finally it can spread by hand-to-hand contact. The virus will enter through the nose or the mouth, so if you touch these areas after contact with the virus, you risk catching it.

What Will Increase the Risk?

While viruses that can lead to colds are present most of the time, there are some factors that will increase your risks of catching it.

Young children are more at risk than adults, largely because their immune system is less developed, and they have not yet developed resistance to the cold viruses. Other facts that increases the risk for young children, is that they often spend lots of time with other children and are not as aware of hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes.

As hinted at, with age, most develop immunity to many of the viruses causing colds. This is not a guarantee. Exposure to cold viruses, allergic reactions, or a temporarily weakened immune system, will increase the risk of you catching a head cold.

Another factor is the time of the year. Generally, the risk of getting a cold is greatest in the fall and winter. This is the case, since children are in school and people spend the majority of the time indoors.

What Are the Symptoms?

As many different viruses can cause a cold, the symptoms may vary accordingly. After contact with the virus, it will usually take a couple of days, before you feel the symptoms.

While you recover from the head cold, you are likely to experience that the discharge from your nose alters color and thickness, so that it in the end of the period, it will be more yellow/green and thicker as well.

Symptoms of a Head Cold:

  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Itchy, sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches
  • A mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low temperature fever (up to 102 F/39 C)
  • Mild fatigue

What separates a cold from the typical viral infection, is the absence of very high fevers and substantial fatigue. If you do experience these symptoms, you likely suffer from something else, and it is recommended to see your doctor.

Danger Signs Adults:

  •     Fever of 102 F/39 C or above
  •     High fever in connection with pain and fatigue
  •     Fever in connection with sweating, chills, and cough with colored phlegm
  •     Significantly swollen glands
  •     Severe sinus pain

Due to a weaker immune defense mechanism, young children are much more likely to experience complications in connection with a cold. While it might not be necessary to consult your doctor for a head cold without complications, you should be on the look-out, and immediately seek help if you suspect something is out of the ordinary.

Danger Signs Children:

  •     Fever of 103 F/39.5 C or above, chills or sweating
  •     Fever lasting more than three days
  •     Vomiting or abdominal pain
  •     Unusual sleepiness
  •     Severe headache
  •     Difficulty breathing
  •     Persistent crying
  •     Ear pain
  •     Persistent cough

Complications in Connection with a Head Cold

Viruses or bacteria can potentially infiltrate the space behind the eardrum, this will most often happen in children. Symptoms are pain in the ear, green/yellow discharge from the nose, and fever. Very young children might not be able to communicate what is wrong, they will typically cry much more than usual.

A head cold that does not go away can lead to inflammation and infection of the sinuses, known as sinusitis.

Other complications include secondary infections, such as strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis (adults) and croup (children).

If you experience complications, it is important to consult a doctor.

How to Prevent Cathing a Cold

No vaccine for the head cold exists, since it can be caused by a large number of viruses. There are however, some common sense precautions you can take in order to reduce the risk of catching it.

Maintain excellent hand hygiene, cleaning your hands often and thoroughly. Instruct your children as well. It is a great idea, to carry a bottle of alcohol-based disinfection gel for when soap and water are not available. They kill most germs and are safe for older children to use.

Keep kitchen and bathroom counters clean, and be extra careful when someone in your family has a cold. After play clean your children’s toys.

Use tissues every time you sneeze and cough. Immediately throw away used tissues. Instruct your children to sneeze and cough into the bend of their elbow if they do not have a tissue. This way they will not use their hands, but still cover their mouth.

Do not share things such as drinking glasses and utensils with family members. If a member of the family is sick, it might be a good idea, to label the cup or glass with the name of the person, so nobody accidentally uses it.

When choosing child care, look for a setting with excellent hygiene practices and a stated policy on keeping sick children at home. The number of colds your children will be in contact with, is obviously related to the number of children in the center.

Information on Treatments and Drugs

Unfortunately, no cure for head cold exists. A common misconception is that it can be treated by antibiotics, this is not true, antibiotics are, in fact, of no use against cold viruses.

Over the counter cold remedies will not cure a head cold and may have side effects.

To relieve fever, sore throat and headache, it is common to use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, or other mild pain relievers. Remember that acetaminophen may cause liver damage if taken too often or if recommended doses are exceeded. Giving acetaminophen to children is dangerous, since the dosing guidelines are hard to follow and confusing. Do not give children aspirin, it has been shown to be associated rare, potentially fatal illnesses.

Do not use decongestant drops or sprays beyond a few days, since you risk chronic inflammation of mucous membranes by prolonged use. Children should not use them at all.

Nonprescription cough syrups have become extremely popular. This use has been discouraged though, because they do not treat the underlying cause of cough. They might contain ingredients potentially able to alleviate coughing, but the amounts are too small to have much effect and may in fact be harmful for children. An accidental overdose could for young children be fatal. The coughs caused by a cold will generally last less than two to three weeks. If it lasts longer, consult your doctor.

What Will Relieve a Head Cold

While you can not cure your common cold, you can make it as comfortable as possible. These points should help you relief your head cold.

Drinking plenty of liquids is vital. The options include water, juice, tea and warm soup. They will help replace the fluids lost due to mucus production and fever. Liquids, does in this case not include alcohol and caffeine, which should be avoided, since they cause dehydration. Cigarette smoke should also be avoided, since it can aggravate your symptoms.

An old, well-known remedy is chicken soup. Scientists have later discovered that it does help relieve cold and flu symptoms. This is done in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory. The reason is fairly complicated, simply put, it strengthens certain cells from the immune system that help the body's response to inflammation. Second, chicken soup actually speeds up how fast the mucus moves through the nose, thus it helps relieve congestion, and it minimizes the time viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.

It is important to get plenty of rest. If at all possible, stay home from work. This will give you the opportunity to rest and reduce the chances of infecting others.

Keep your room pleasantly warm, but not so warm that it feels overheated. If the air is too dry it may worsen congestion and coughing. In this case a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can make the air more moist. If you choose this route, be very careful to keep the humidifier clean and prevent growth of bacteria and molds.

Gargle warm salt water several times a day, or drink warm lemon water with honey, to help soothe the throat and ease coughing.

Alternative Therapies for Head Cold Relief

Alternative therapies won't cure your cold, but again they might help ease your symptoms. The effectiveness of many of the alternative therapies is controversial, so you will have to make up your own mind.

Taking preparations of the herb echinacea might protect you from catching a cold or relieve symptoms when you have one. No studies show evidence that echinacea will prevent you from catching a cold, however some evidence does suggest that it may modestly relieve symptoms. Echinacea is most effective if taken shortly after cold symptoms are experienced for the first time.

Evidence that taking large doses of vitamin C minimizes your risk of getting a cold is flimsy. However, some evidence does show that high doses of vitamin C might slightly reduce the duration of cold symptoms.

The use of zinc nasal sprays is discouraged, since some users have experienced permanent loss of smell.

How to Prepare for a Doctor’s Appointment

If you decide to consult a doctor, you might consider a bit of preparation, to allow you and your doctor to cover as much ground as possible.

Make a list of any symptoms you are experiencing. On the list, you should also include key personal information, such as major stresses in your life or recent drastic changes. List all medications you are using, as well as vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter cold remedies.

To make sure you do not forget any, write down all questions you want to ask your doctor. Order your questions, from most important to least important. This way you ensure getting an answer to your most pressing questions.

Examples of questions you might want to ask your doctor:

  •     Likely cause of symptoms and condition?
  •     Besides the most likely cause, is there other possible causes for the symptoms and condition?
  •     Do I need tests?
  •     Is the condition likely temporary?
  •     What is the best thing to do from now on?
  •     Other health conditions, how can I manage them together?
  •     Are there restrictions I need to be aware of?
  •     Does a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing exist?
  •     Should a follow-up visit be arranged?

It is important, that you do not hesitate to ask questions at any time, if you are unsure of something.

Being prepared to answer the questions your doctor is likely to ask, will allow more time to cover what you want answered. Your doctor might ask the following:

  •     When did the symptoms begin?
  •     Have the symptoms been constant or occasional?
  •     What seems to better your symptoms?
  •     What seems to worsen your symptoms?

As you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment, you can do a few things to help ease symptoms and relieve pain. After reading this page you should have an idea of what these are. Consider taking pain medications, remember to get a lot of rest, and drink copious amounts of water.

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Comments 1 comment

christina 5 years ago

These ideas are great to get rid of a head cold

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