Head colds can be annoying, and most people have one or two bouts of cold every year. Understanding what a cold is and how it is different from flu is important so that you can prevent and treat colds properly.

What Is A Cold?

There are over 200 cold viruses for you to catch, and they are all different! When you catch any one virus, the body produces antibodies to that one virus, and you will then be immune to that virus. That immunity is unfortunately only effective for that one virus, and you can still catch any of the other 199 or so. The immunity also wears off over time, so you can still catch that one virus a number of years later. It also means that a cold vaccine would have to have over 200 ingredients, each individually tested against each strain of virus. This is why there is no hope of a vaccine against colds. So we still get a lot of colds!

Children catch up to 10 colds a year. The average for infants and pre-school children is 4 to 8 colds a year. As children get older, they develop resistance to more types of cold virus, and catch progressively less each year. So that by the time they are adult this becomes 2 to 5 per year. Resistance increases through adult life, so that the elderly may have no colds in a year, or only one. The average is 3 colds per year over an 80 year life span, which is about 250 colds in a lifetime. Just think that if each one lasted a week that is about 5 years of life with a cold. It is certainly important to treat colds properly and not miss out on 5 years of life!

Cold symptoms tend to be mild, and build up slowly. They usually start within 24 hours of infection with a scratchy, irritating throat and sneezing. The symptoms increase over the next one or two days with the throat often becoming sore, and a runny nose. This is the time to treat the symptoms to make you feel better, and help your body fight the infection. Adults do not usually have a raised temperature, but children often do, and this should be treated.

A cold normally lasts about a week, but may drag on to two weeks, but it is quite common to catch a second cold before you have recovered from the first, and this looks as if the first infection has just gone on for a much longer time than expected. However if a cold lasts much longer than two weeks, then think about seeing the doctor.

It is not necessary to see the doctor about a normal cold unless you have any other medical problems. Remember that antibiotics do not help a cold because they only help infections caused by bacteria. Complications can happen after a bad cold infection, especially if you have other medical problems, or not in such good health. Sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and asthma may be triggered.

Meningitis is always a worry when any child is ill, even though the chances of catching it are very small.

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