We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
A vigorous immune response is the cause of many cold symptoms, including nasal congestion.
The "common cold" is aptly named. Acute upper respiratory infection -- the term doctors use to describe a cold -- is the most frequently diagnosed condition in patients discharged from emergency departments, and the third most common diagnosis in doctors' offices. While most colds last a week to 10 days and resolve without treatment, the cough, runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion associated with a cold can interfere with your school or work performance and interrupt your sleep. While they are troublesome, these symptoms are merely your body's defensive response to the virus that caused your cold.
Your Nose Is the Port of Entry
Although cold symptoms can be triggered by a number of infectious organisms, the majority of upper respiratory infections are caused by rhinoviruses, of which more than 100 different types have been identified, and which are adept at invading the inner lining of your upper respiratory tract. By attaching to cellular receptors that normally help maintain the integrity of your mucus membranes, rhinoviruses quickly gain entry into the cells along your nasal passages. Once they get a foothold, rhinoviruses find the temperature in your nose -- a little over 91 degrees Fahrenheit -- ideal for rapid multiplication.
Your immune response to rhinovirus infection is complex. As the viruses attach to your epithelial cells, your natural killer cells -- a special population of immune cells -- recognize the viruses as foreign and initiate attempts to remove them, along with the infected cells. These NK cells release chemical messengers that dilate surrounding blood vessels and attract additional immune cells, such as neutrophils and antibody-producing B cells. These cells release their own chemical messengers, and soon a full-blown inflammatory response has been generated within the inner layers of your nasal passages. The swelling, increased mucus production and вЂњleakinessвЂќ evoked by this inflammatory process, account for the nasal congestion and runny nose that characterize a cold.
Since colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not improve your symptoms or shorten the course of your illness. Over-the-counter oral decongestants, such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, and nasal decongestant sprays, such as oxymetazoline, may relieve nasal congestion in adolescents and adults. Nasal sprays should be used for only 3 to 5 days, however, as they may actually perpetuate congestion if used longer. Nasal sprays should not be used in children without a doctor's recommendation.
Because cough and cold medications have not been shown to relieve cold symptoms in young children, and because they are among the top 20 causes of death in this age group, they should not be administered to children younger than 4 years of age. Mentholated rub, applied to the chest and neck, and Pelargonium sidoides extract may be beneficial for children with nasal congestion and runny nose.
There is no vaccine to prevent colds but, according to a 2012 review in вЂњAmerican Family Physician,вЂќ several complementary therapies have shown promise for preventing colds. Probiotics, such a Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus, may reduce the incidence of colds in children. Vitamin C, oral zinc sulfate and nasal irrigation with saline may reduce the number of colds you have in a given year, but it is not clear how long these measures must be practiced to confer maximum benefit. Ask your doctor for dosing recommendations for probiotics, vitamin C and zinc sulfate.
Scrupulous вЂњcold hygieneвЂќ is the most effective means for preventing upper respiratory infections, which includes frequent hand washing; coughing or sneezing into your sleeve, rather than your hand; not touching your eyes or nose with your hands or fingers; not sharing eating utensils, towels or other personal items; and staying home from school or work when you are ill.