How to Treat Common Cold: First Aid Treatment

The common cold is an infection of the upper airways (nose, throat, and sinuses) caused by a viral infection. Viruses are tiny organisms that reproduce inside our cells and cause infections. The virus that causes a cold normally affects the lining of the nose, causing a runny nose and sneezing. This is also the way the cold virus spreads from person to person. Every time we sneeze, thousands of small droplets are produced and expelled at high speed across a wide area. These droplets carry the cold virus and can contaminate surfaces and infect people in the surrounding area. Catching sneezes in tissues and effective handwashing are important steps to take to reduce the spread of viruses that cause colds.

Unfortunately, there is no role for antibiotics in treating the common cold. Antibiotics are only effective against infections caused by bacteria, not viruses. Using antibiotics for the common cold is likely to cause side effects and can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms. Our bodies should fight off the cold virus within seven to ten days, although in some cases it can take several weeks for the infection to be completely resolved.

Medical Terminology

The virus responsible for causing most cases of the common cold is known as a rhinovirus.

Signs and Symptoms of the Common Cold

◾ Sore throat

◾ Runny and congested nose

◾ Sneezing

◾ Coughing

◾ High temperature (fever)

First Aid Treatment for the Common Cold

1. Advise the victim to take regular over-the-counter painkillers and antifever medication such as acetaminophen.

2. Encourage the victim to sip fluids to prevent dehydration.

3. Ensure you and the victim perform adequate handwashing to reduce the risk of the infection spreading.

4. Seek medical help if you are concerned that the symptoms are not resolving, or if the victim may be suffering from influenza (the flu).

What About Cough Syrups?

Many people use commercial cough syrups to deal with the troublesome symptoms of a cold. However, scientific studies show that cough syrups may not provide much relief and, in some cases, may have harmful side effects (for example, drowsiness), especially if used in large quantities. Parents should be aware that cough syrups are not recommended for use in children due to the risk of side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that children under the age of two should not be given any commercially available cough syrups.

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