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     Volume 4 Issue 46 | May 13, 2005 |

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Got the Sniffles?

Acold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract characterised by inflammation (swelling and irritation with presence of extra immune cells) of the mucous membranes, sneezing, and sore throat.
Alternative Names
Viral upper respiratory infection; Common cold

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Colds are caused by more than 200 different viruses known as rhinoviruses. They are not caused by the same viruses responsible for influenza ("the flu"). Colds spread through exposure to droplets from the coughing or sneezing of others with a cold or by hand contact with objects contaminated by someone with a cold.

The incidence of colds is highest among children and the incidence decreases with age because immunity to the virus causing the cold occurs after the illness. Gradually, immunity to a wide variety of viruses that cause colds is developed in adults. On average, children have 10 colds a year and adults have 3.

*runny nose
*nasal congestion
*sore throat
*muscle aches
*low-grade fever (102 F or lower)
>Note: symptoms usually last less than two weeks.

Cold symptoms should go away in a week to 10 days. Treatment by a health care provider is not necessary unless symptoms continue or existing respiratory conditions are worsened by the symptoms.

Home care measures may relieve some of the symptoms of the cold but will not affect the duration of the illness. These measures include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, drinking plenty of fluids and rest.
Antibiotics are not appropriate treatment for colds.

Expectations (prognosis)
Symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days.

*aggravation of a pre-existing respiratory condition
*secondary bacterial infection
*ear infection

Calling your health care provider
Use home care measures first. Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms worsen or do not improve after 7 to 10 days, if breathing difficulty develops, or if thick green or brown sputum develops.

There is no scientific evidence to support beliefs that avoiding cold temperatures or drafts or taking large quantities of vitamin C will prevent colds.

Allergies, Cold or Flu?
Relief is all any of us want from a stuffy nose, hacking cough or aching muscles. Does it make a difference if the cause is an allergy, a cold or the flu? It makes a big difference. Understanding the source of your particular symptoms is the key to getting the relief you need.

Why You Need To Know
If you are prone to "colds" for a good part of the year it is entirely possible that you are actually suffering from allergies. With proper treatment your allergy symptoms could be minimised or entirely eliminated. However, left unattended, your allergies could develop into sinusitis or ear infections.

It is important to distinguish between colds and flu because untreated flu can sometimes lead to complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can even be life threatening.

What are the Differences?
While the symptoms described in each of the following categories are quite common and can be used as general indications, individual cases may vary. If you are unsure of your situation or symptoms persist, call your physician for treatment recommendations.

Allergies - Symptoms usually strike quickly and can include runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, or watery and itchy eyes. You might experience itching in the ear, nose and throat. Nasal discharges are clear, thin and watery. Allergies occur during different seasons depending on what you are allergic to and can last weeks or months.

Talk to your doctor about tests to determine the cause of your allergies and the proper treatment. Once you know the specific "allergens" (generally harmless substances that cause an allergic reaction), avoidance is the best preventative. When that's not possible, short or long term relief can be provided with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs including antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroid nasal sprays. For chronic conditions, your doctor might recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Colds - You can usually feel cold symptoms developing over a few days. Symptoms might be the same as those for allergies, but without itching in the ear, nose and throat. You could have a sore throat, cough, or mild fever. Nasal discharges are thin and clear at the outset but change to thick, yellow or green. Colds generally occur during the fall and winter and should clear up in 7 to 10 days.

You can achieve temporary relief of symptoms with over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. If symptoms don't clear up within 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. You can minimise the risk of catching a cold by washing your hands after contact with cold sufferers and any objects they may have touched. Try to avoid cold sufferers sneezing or coughing in your direction and don't touch your nose or eyes with your fingers.

Flu - The onset of flu can be sudden and symptoms often include exhaustion, headache and severe aches and pains. Occasionally a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat are added to the mixture of symptoms. A cough is common and can become severe. High temperatures (102-104F) can last 3 - 4 days while a general weakness or fatigue can continue for 2 - 3 weeks.

See your doctor for antiviral medications to relieve flu symptoms. To help prevent the flu, talk to your doctor about vaccination with annual flu shots.


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