Surprising Facts About the Common Cold

Lady with a coldMany myths exist about colds, flu’s and other illnesses that strike during the winter. In an attempt to clarify some of the false beliefs, I thought I’d share a few facts about common viral challenges. After reading this post, please also read Top 10 Ways to Shorten the Duration of a Cold.

Here are a few facts about the common cold:

  1. Most people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) get 4-12 colds per year. People who eat a healthier diet get fewer colds because their body can easily resist the virus. You don’t get sick because you’re exposed to a virus; you get sick because your immune system is too weak to fight the virus. If you got sick every time you were exposed to a virus, you would have a cold 365 days a year, or would at least get sick every time you visited Walmart. You only get sick when your immune system is impaired. It’s just that simple.
  2. The most common type of virus that causes the common cold include various strains of Rhinovirus. These viruses cannot survive more than three hours outside of the human body and typically enter through the nose. You “catch cold” when you inhale someone else’s cold virus, rub your nose after shaking hands or touching something that is contaminated with the virus, or by inhaling it off of a phone. Obviously, frequent hand washing, use of a natural hand sanitizer (find recipes here), and practicing “safe coughing” are all methods to help protect yourself and others. Please note that you must wash your hands at least 20 seconds to thoroughly kill viruses, but that it is NOT necessary to use an antibacterial soap. (Read my post on Triclosan here.)
  3. A cold is a virus and therefore can NOT be treated with antibiotics. It must run its course. You can shorten the duration of a cold by strengthening your immune system. Taking an antibiotic during a cold does nothing more than create more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Please don’t.
  4. Once in the body, a typical cold incubates in eight to ten hours. You may start to feel the first tiny twinges of a sore throat or a runny nose the same day you’re exposed. The maximum effects of the viral infection are typically felt within 36-72 hours.
  5. Cold symptoms last anywhere from three days to three weeks. Again, the duration of a cold is primarily dependent upon how strong your immune system is and what you do to strengthen your immunity while you’re sick. People who take evasive measures often shorten the duration of a cold by more than half, so it’s worth it to do everything you can! Taking evasive measures will also help lessen the severity of your symptoms. If your cold symptoms seem overly severe, please contact your health professional immediately. The presence of excess mucous is a breeding ground for bacteria. This makes it somewhat common for bacterial sinus infections to follow a simple cold. Using the tips I’ll share in tomorrow’s post will help protect you, but please seek medical advice if your symptoms are severe.
  6. A cold commonly progresses through five stages: 1) You get a scratchy throat and then wake up feeling as if your throat is on fire. You may also feel very tired; 2) Your nose starts pouring, but at this point the discharge is probably clear. You may  not have have much appetite and are beginning to feel the effects of the virus more; 3) You develop a horrible headache, may or may not have a fever, may ache from head to toe; and are still exhausted; 4) You become very, very congested and the discharge from your nose may become thick and yellow or green. Color is NOT an indicator of infection. It is actually perfectly “normal” to have thick, green discharge during a cold; 5) You develop a cough and may sneeze frequently.The stages of a cold may occur simultaneously or may appear throughout a span of two to seven days. You may not experience all of them.

Many people are surprised to hear I am available to assist with temporary ailments and do not limit my practice to chronic conditions. If you are struggling with a cold, flu or other short-term challenge, please consider scheduling a 15-minute phone consultation. Feel free to email me or call 317.489.0909 to schedule.

Now you’re ready to read The Top 10 Ways to Shorten the Duration of a Cold. Feel better!

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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