The Common Cold
The common cold is an illness caused by a virus infection in the nose. Colds may also involve the sinuses, ears, and bronchial tubes.
Symptoms of a common cold usually begin 2 to 3 days after infection and include: sneezing, runny nose, nasal obstruction, sore or scratchy throat, cough, hoarseness, and mild general symptoms like headache, feverishness, chilliness, and not feeling well in general.
Colds last on average for one week. Mild colds may last only 2 or 3 days, while severe colds may last for up to 2 weeks.
Children have about 6 to 10 colds a year. Adults average about 2 to 4 colds a year, although the range varies widely.
In the United States, most colds occur during the fall and winter. The seasonal variation may relate to the opening of schools and to cold weather.
There are over 100 different cold viruses.
Rhinoviruses are the most important and cause at least one-half of all colds. Parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus, produce mild infections in adults but can precipitate severe lower respiratory infections in young children. Scientists believe that coronaviruses cause a large percentage of all adult colds. They bring on colds primarily in the winter and early spring.
The leukocyte (WBC) count may be normal or decreased.
The chest radiograph typically reveals no acute infiltrates.
At present, there are five office-based assays for detecting influenza virus A and/or B: BD Directigen Flu A+B, BD Directigen Flu A, FLU OIA, QuickVue Influenza A/B Test, and ZstatFlu.
The viral culture is the most accurate method for identifying specific viral strains and subtypes. Viral culture results are not available for two to 10 days, depending on methodology. It is also expensive (about $100).
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