Causes, symptoms and treatment of common colds

Flu or common cold symptoms include sneezing, cough, runny nose, congested nose, eyes which turn red, pain in the muscles, joints and general weakness

Does unboiled water cause flu? What about getting soaked in the rain? Most of us grew up with these misconceptions and we faithfully passed them on. Yet in reality, common colds are caused by a virus 

BY Lilian Namagembe

IN SUMMARY

Does unboiled water cause flu? What about getting soaked in the rain? Most of us grew up with these misconceptions and we faithfully passed them on. Yet in reality, common colds are caused by a virus.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Stay home if you’re sick, especially if you have a fever
  • Cover your cough to protect others
  • Wash your hands
  • Limit how frequently you touch your mouth or nose.

This year’s wet season in March started on a sad note for Shakirah Mukisa’s family. The Mukisas’ and their two children were all down with a cold and cough. Either way, Tahia and Umar their children could not go to school for a few days due to the terrible effects that included a dry hacking cough, moderate fever, stuffy and runny nose.
“This happens to us during the wet season because it is cold. We, however, rarely experience the symptoms during the dry season when it is hot,” Mukisa says. But Mukisa, has not taken trouble to find the best preventive way to protect her family against the respiratory infections.
“Unlike diseases such as Aids or cholera, I have not seen much information and sensitisation on the management of flu,” adds Mukisa. As thus, the only explanation that the Mukisas has ever had is the different hypotheses that the condition simply thrives when it is cold, just because it is cold.
Just like Mukisa, most of us have this misconception that the cold weather is the cause of the common cold and flu. Medical experts explain that although the cold weather plays a role, the common cold is caused by virus and bacteria which thrive under cold conditions. According to Dr Vincent Karuhanga, flu is slang for a common cold which can be caused by any of the over more than viruses and it can be influenza A B and these ones are actually very dangerous and not common flu, Dr Karuhanga explains.

There are more than 200 different viruses that cause colds which explains why you keep getting one cold after another. Doctors, however, point out that rhinoviruses as responsible for causing about 50 per cent of colds.

Symptoms
Flu or common cold symptoms include sneezing, cough, runny nose, congested nose, eyes which turn red, pain in the muscles, joints and general weakness. Eventually one ends up with a cough and if they are exposed to cold weather, in case of a child or pregnant woman, the elderly or someone with chronic diseases such as Aids, that can develop into pneumonia which is very difficult to treat and which in some causes can be fatal.

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Spread
When an infected person shakes hands with you using the same hands that might have touched their eyes, nose or mouth, from there the germ can spread. The unfortunate thing is that the person can spread this up to four days before the symptoms show up four days after the symptoms show.

Expert view
Dr Doreen B. Ashaba, a general physician at Cambridge Health Medical Center, in Kampala says common colds strike more during the cold seasons because human beings have bacteria and virus in the throat the cold favours their multiplication is the coldness. “So when it is cold, they are active but during the dry season they are there but dormant,” Dr Ashaba says.
She adds that most upper respiratory tract infections many of which affect the nasal area, sinuses and throat are caused by viruses, with some few cases of bacterial infections.
“They are air borne diseases so when someone coughs or sneezes into the air, they release droplets which carry the virus,” she further explains. Dr Ashaba says the infections are more common in children because their immunity is still weak as well as those people whose immunity is compromised for example people who are HIV positive.
Unlike infants, the general doctor says “flu and cough are not common among adults. This is because when they later catch them, there is a memory cell which will release white blood cells that defend the body against infection.”

Nutrition and colds
Dr Ricky Byarugaba, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), surgeon at Kampala ENT clinic says people especially those with allergies are affected during the wet seasons and therefore they need to keep warm and drink a lot of warm water and eat fruits. “Fruits contain a lot of multivitamins which help to boost and restore one’s immune system,” Dr Byarugaba states. However, once the infections strike without fever, Dr Ashaba advises one to try out ginger and honey. However, if there are no changes, they should see the doctors who will check the throat and inspect them. “Since most of them are viral, the patient will be prescribed supportive medicine for symptoms.
So we treat what is there. Because 15 per cent are bacterial we may also give you anti-bacterial drugs,” She explains.
Try to get some electrolytes (naturally occurring elements and compounds in the body), such as sodium and potassium. Good sources are bananas, soups, and fruit juices.

Prevention
The good news is that the flu virus is preventable. Getting a flu shot every year is one of the best ways to protect yourself. The flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, including pregnant women.
According the CDC, the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used during 2016–2017. Other preventive measures include:
• Avoid close contact with sick people
•Stay home if you’re sick, especially if you have a fever
•Cover your cough to protect others
•Wash your hands
•Limit how frequently you touch your mouth or nose.

Myths and misconception
To say that flu and influenza are the same is wrong. Influenza according to the World Health Organisation, is an acute viral infection that attacks mainly the upper respiratory tract-the nose, throat and rarely also the lungs that spreads easily from person to person and can affect people in any age group.
It is not entirely true that the common cold can be cured by simply taking lemon and vitamin C. Although it can shorten the symptoms, there is no evidence that fruits can help but what is true is that chicken soup can help because the warmth of the soup will make sure to keep the person warm and the fact that there is a mucus splinting can help.
Flu is caused by a virus, but very many people are good at giving antibiotics which are useless in treating it. What this misdiagnosis does is cause resistance for bacteria because it does not treat virus.

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