symptoms, contagion, treatment and prevention

What Is A Cold?: Symptoms, Contagion, Treatment And Prevention

Colds are one of the most common diseases worldwide. It is a pathology of viral origin that causes inflammation of the  nasal and pharyngeal (throat) mucosa  . Highly contagious, colds can be transmitted by both sick and healthy carriers.


How Is A Cold Transmitted?

The most common form of contagion is direct: sneezing, coughing and droplets of saliva  allow the  direct  passage  of viruses  from one organism to another. Dialogue can also become a cause of direct transmission as small drops of salivary fluid can be involuntarily expelled during the conversation.

The more than 200  viruses responsible for  colds can last for about three hours in the external environment. Contagion can therefore also occur indirectly, for example  by shaking hands  or  manipulating contaminated objects . For this reason, it is a good habit to wash your hands well  and avoid bringing them to your face after having been in contact with infected people or objects.

At the same time, if you are suffering from a cold, it is a good idea  to bring your hands to your mouth  when you  sneeze  or cough to avoid infecting those around you.

The peak of contagiousness occurs in the first 2-3 days of illness, while at the end of the illness the risk of contagion is very low.

The chances of infection are directly proportional to the time of exposure to contaminants.

Risk Factors
Any form of  stress  can decrease resistance to infections by lowering  immune defenses .The risk of contagion increases considerably in debilitated or ill subjects, whose immune defenses are not able to protect the body from contagion (especially children and  the elderly ). In the latter (children) the cold manifests itself more seriously, and normally lasts a few days longer.

Cold and Cold

Cold climate, rain, drafts, cold wind and air conditioning are among the major empirically recognized risk factors.

The greater susceptibility to colds in similar circumstances is probably due to the temporary lowering of the defenses of the  nose  and throat, which occurs following exposure to cold or excessively dry air currents.

We know, for example, that the respiratory tract is lined with vibrating cilia, which with their movements continually push mucus ( a viscous substance that protects against microorganisms by incorporating them and masking the cellular receptors with which they interact) outwards. Viruses and bacteria can therefore exploit the inhibitory action of the cold on the motility of these cilia, to infect the upper respiratory tract.

If the air is too dry, droplets of saliva containing viruses can remain airborne for longer. A room humidifier therefore helps prevent colds and  dryness of the nasal passages , reducing the risk of infection.
For further information:  Cold Symptoms

Cold Symptoms: How Does It Manifest Itself?

Cold symptoms are quite common:  stuffy  and runny  nose , nasal congestion , sore throat sometimes associated with  fever , cough,  migraine ,  hoarseness , inflammation of the  lymph nodes  in the neck and  muscle pain .


Complete recovery from a cold normally occurs within 5-10 days, but in some cases it may take longer.

If the symptoms persist for more than two weeks without easing, it is best to consider the possible presence of other problems such as  sinusitis  or  allergies .


Therefore, there are no specific treatments for colds, although some drugs, including  antihistamines  and anti-inflammatories , can alleviate the symptoms. However,  aspirin  and derivatives should not, under any circumstances, be administered to children under 12 years of age.

Sprays and nebulizers can temporarily resolve the unpleasant sensation of a stuffy nose but it is best not to overuse them.

Fumes and  aerosols  to clear the airways,  balsamic sweets  and frequent cleaning of the nose can eliminate at least part of the infected mucus, avoiding the risk of bacterial infections and accelerating healing.

Antibiotics   should not be used to treat a common cold . They do not help and can even be harmful (even in the presence of  phlegm and yellowish mucus ).

To know more:Medicines to treat colds

Grandma’S Remedies

Chicken broth  was used to treat colds as early as the 12th century  . Indeed, heat, numerous amino acids (especially cysteine ) and salt can help fight the infection.

In popular traditions there are many alleged remedies, among the most classic are  milk  with  honey and  lemon juice  with   white wine . However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these practices.

To Know More: Cold Remedies

Diet And Phytotherapy

Citrus fruits , garlic ,  wheat germ ,  millet ,  sage ,  celery ,  berries ,  strawberries  and  chestnuts  are just some of the foods to which traditional medicine attributes healing properties against colds.

Few studies have been carried out to confirm the therapeutic efficacy of these foods , which generally prove to be completely devoid of beneficial effects.

Peppermint  ,  thyme  or eupcalyptus herbal teas and extracts of the Echinacea plant  are used in various countries around the world to treat colds and upper respiratory tract infections in general.

To know more:Natural remedies against colds

C Vitamin

The intake of vitamin C does not appear to have any curative/preventive value, although a good  vitamin balance  is essential to  fortify the immune defenses  and ensure the body’s optimal efficiency.



Colds, as we have seen, are caused by a very large set of viruses (over 200). Among all these viruses, the most common are rhinoviruses, whose name derives from the Greek term rhin = “nose”.

The multiplicity of viral agents  involved has prevented scientists from developing an  effective vaccine  , unlike what happened with influenza (whose viral strain is much smaller).

Behavioral Measures

Here are other tips to prevent the disease:

  • Don’t use the same napkins or cutlery as someone who has a cold
  • Turn around and put your hands, or better yet a tissue, to your mouth when you sneeze
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating
  • Try to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth
  • Stay healthy, follow a regular physical activity program  and combine it with a balanced diet
  • Avoid stress as much as possible and rest adequately
  • Avoid exposure to bad weather and sudden changes in temperature in general
  • Increase the consumption of liquids to make the infected mucus more fluid and facilitate its elimination
  • Consume probiotic foods  to promote the balance of intestinal bacterial flora .


Fortunately, serious complications are quite rare and mostly affect  the ear ,  trachea  and  bronchi .

Colds rarely cause excessive increases in  body temperature (over 38°C), in these cases it is logical to suspect a form of flu .

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