Pretty much everyone, at some point in their life, has caught a common cold.
But what exactly causes one?
And how do you know the difference between a cold, and something like the flu?
In this post, we’re going to dive deep and uncover the truth behind what a common cold is, what causes it, and what makes it different from other types of illnesses.
Let’s jump in and break it down.
What Is A Common Cold?
A common cold is simply a viral infection that attaches itself to your nose and/or throat.
Many different types of viruses can cause a common cold, but Rhinoviruses are the most common.
Contrary to what many people think, the virus itself doesn’t directly cause the cold symptoms.
Your immune system, which is the body’s defense against germs, actually triggers the symptoms when it sends out white blood cells to attack the viral invader.
If you’ve already had this exact type of virus before, then you may not experience symptoms. But if your body’s initial attack against the virus fails, your body goes into reinforcement mode, and starts to put your systems into a sort of ‘defensive’ state.
Your nose and throat will get inflamed, and you’ll start to generate a lot of mucus.
As your body focuses more and more of its energy on fighting the virus, you’ll be left feeling pretty tired and miserable.
What’s The Difference Between A Cold And A Flu?
Both the flu and the common cold are respiratory illnesses, but they tend to be caused by different viruses.
It can be difficult to tell them apart. But in general, the flu is usually much worse than the common cold, with more intense symptoms.
Common Cold Symptoms
The most basic symptoms of a common cold include:
- A runny nose
- A scratchy throat
- Feelings of fatigue
Of course, flu symptoms tend to be more severe, and they can include a high fever and muscle aches in addition to these other symptoms.
Is The Common Cold Dangerous?
As a general rule, colds tend to get better within a few days or weeks.
In most cases, medication isn’t needed for a full recovery.
With that being said, a cold virus can pave the way to other types of infections, including ear infections, sinus infections, and even acute bronchitis.
One of the more common complications that can arise from a common cold is a sinus infection that brings about a prolonged cough.
Most colds don’t require a visit to the doctor.
However, if your cold worsens, then you may want to keep an eye out for a few key symptoms.
If you have trouble breathing or experience chest pain, you should immediately contact your doctor and/or go to the emergency room.
If you end up with a fever that doesn’t get any better, vomiting without being able to keep anything down, a cough you can’t get rid of, an inability to swallow, and/or if you have congestion and a headache that simply won’t go away, you may want to consider talking to your doctor as well.
These symptoms can indicate that there’s a worse complication going on, and that you may need medical attention.