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Common cold and flu are usually confused with each other. This is mainly because the symptoms are very similar for both of the health problems. However the viruses causing common cold and flu are very different from each other and by means of the course of diseases you can tell the difference as well. Let’s start with looking at the common cold in detail.

The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract. Children younger than 6 are most likely to catch frequent cold especially if they spend time at child-care settings. Weakened immune system, smoking and increased exposure are other risk factors for common cold. A lot of viruses can cause common cold, however rhinoviruses are the most common among them. 

One to three days after exposure to common cold symptoms appear. These include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches or a mild headache, sneezing, low-grade fever, and malaise. 

When to seek medical care

Adults should seek medical care if they have fever greater than 101.3 F (38.5 C) and if their fever lasts more than five days with no indication of other fever causing disease, shortness of breath, wheezing and severe headache, sore throat or sinus pain.

Children should seek medical care if their symptoms are severe or do not appear to be improving, if they develop wheezing, ear pain, extreme fussiness, unusual drowsiness or lack of appetite. Also fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks is a good indication that you need to seek medical care.

Common cold usually does not develop serious complications as much as flu, such as associated pneumonia, but depending on your immune system and other risk factors you may need to take greater care for your illness. Adults usually have common cold 3-5 times a year especially in fall and winter when common cold viruses are commonly transmitted.

What is the relationship between common cold and cold weather

Common cold is called viral rhinitis in medical literature. It is caused by viruses, especially rhinovirus, that infect the upper respiratory tract and cold weather was thought to be the cause of the disease in the 16th century, that is where it got its name from. However in 1965 rhinoviruses were discovered as the causing agents and now we know that cold weather is not the reason for the illness.

Actually cold weather has shown to boost your immune system and therefore increase your body’s tolerance against pathogens such as rhinoviruses. However in winter an increase in cold patients is observed. This is because of rhinoviruses’ behavioral habit. Viruses are shown to thrive in dry air and with buildings using forced-air heat as a heating system it is not a surprise that viruses can infect people faster than in the summer seasons.

Put in a nutshell

Flu is usually a much more severe disease than common cold with greater secondary complications. However common cold is also an important stressor for your body and you should take care of your body and observe your symptoms closely. If you would like to have a digital assistant in the comfort of your house check our freshly launched FluAI App. You can download it from the App Store and Play Store.

References:

Common cold – Symptoms and causes. (2021). Retrieved 20 February 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605


Suffering from a cold?. (2021). Retrieved 20 February 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/colds.html

Author

Elif Başak Alço

PM & CLINICAL TEAM

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