As we get closer to winter, the chances of catching a cold increase. However, COVID alters our approach to sore throats and runny noses.
Isolation isn’t required if you have cold symptoms and your quick antigen tests come back negative, but it’s a good idea. When you have a cold, though, how long should you stay away from others?
You’re infectious until your symptoms go away, so stay away until you’re feeling better. If you spread your cold to others, they may be subjected to unnecessary COVID testing.
After the regular infectious time has passed, some persons may experience a persistent cough or other symptoms. If your RAT for COVID is negative but your symptoms persist, see your doctor to rule for other illnesses or problems.
What causes the so-called “common cold”?
Unlike other infectious diseases that have a single cause, such as COVID, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the “common cold” is a viral upper respiratory tract infection that has a set of characteristic signs and symptoms but is not caused by a single virus.
More than 100 different human rhinovirus serotypes are responsible for the common cold (viruses within one species with the same number and type of surface proteins).
Other viruses that can cause colds include common cold human coronaviruses, parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses, and others.
We get colds a lot because as soon as we get immunity to one type of virus that causes colds, another one appears that we don’t have antibodies to. Some of them evolve over time, allowing them to “escape” the antibodies we’ve developed in response to a previous infection.
While most of us consider colds to be harmless, they can cause significant sickness in the very young, the elderly, or others with weakened immune systems. This can lead to hospitalisation and provoke asthma attacks in those who are sensitive.
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Colds are spread in a variety of ways.
Cold viruses are spread by touching your eyes, mouth, nose, or food with virus-infected hands, through direct contact with others, or inhaling contaminated aerosols.
Each year, pre-school children get six to eight (or more) colds.
Children, who bring the infection home from pre-school or school, appear to be significant drivers of community transmission.
Adults then bring the diseases to work with them. Poor ventilation in the workplace might raise the risk of catching a cold.
Colds are more common in the fall, winter, and spring, as well as during the rainy season in the tropics.
Life cycle of a common cold
Depending on which virus is involved, the median incubation period (the time it takes for symptoms to appear) can range from half a day to five and a half days.
It takes around two days for a rhinovirus infection to develop, though symptoms can appear in as little as half a day.
In general, you’ll be infectious one to two days before you have symptoms and while you’re experiencing them.
Adults and adolescents recover from their symptoms in seven to 10 days on average. Coughs can continue a long time for some people, especially youngsters.
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What symptoms do you have and why do you get them?
A sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and cough are just a few of the symptoms caused by the infection’s inflammation.
A molecule called histamine causes your blood vessels to become more leaky, resulting in a runny nose. Your snot is clear and runny at first. It has a tendency to thicken over time.
Some white blood cells will die when your immune cells combat the virus, changing the colour of your snot. As the immune system ramps up, white blood cells called neutrophils release a green-colored infection-fighting molecule called myeloperoxidase.
Myeloperoxidase creates green snot when a large number of neutrophils die while fighting the infection.
You may have a sinus infection if your runny nose lasts for a long time or if you experience facial pain.
How to avoid contracting and spreading colds
To limit the danger to others, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following precautions:
- If you’re sick, remain at home (and keep sick kids home from school or daycare). This will take roughly seven to ten days for most people.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow if necessary. If you’re using tissues, throw away any that are contaminated and wash your hands afterwards.
- Wash or sanitise your hands frequently because rhinoviruses can live for several hours on fingers and objects.
- When you’re in close proximity to others, transmission happens. As a result, if possible, you may choose to work from home. If you can’t, keep a safe space between yourself and your coworkers.
- Because aerosol transmission is a possibility depending on the virus, you may want to wear a mask at work for a week or two after your symptoms have subsided or if you have returned to work with a persistent cough.
- sanitise surfaces that are often touched.
Finally, get in the habit of not touching your face. One study examined upper respiratory tract infections in two groups: those who merely washed their hands and those who washed their hands and wore a Smartwatch with a sensor to track hand motions and remind them not to touch their faces.
Hand-tracking and reminders caused the group to touch their faces less frequently, which resulted in a 53% reduction in upper respiratory tract infections.