Taking Care of Yourself During Common Cold Season
Gina Benson, RN, BSN, PHN
LCO Community Health Center
Fall is here and winter is right around the corner… and so is the common cold season!
The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). While it is typically harmless, it doesn’t feel that way. Children under age six are at greatest risk of catching colds. Healthy adults can expect to have a common cold about 2-3 times per year!
Symptoms of your common cold can include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, low grade fever, sneezing and generally not feeling well. The color of discharge from your nose is not an indication of a bacterial infection, as the thickness and color of discharges changes as the cold runs its course.
There is no need to see your medical provider for the common cold virus, as your symptoms can be treated through LCO Pharmacy with self-care medications. For fever, slight body aches or sore throat you can take Tylenol or Ibuprofen. For nasal congestion you can use a decongestant nasal spray or saline nasal drops. In addition, there are some home remedies that you can use to help with a sore throat such as warm liquids like chicken broth or chicken noodle soup, warm salt water gargles, warm lemon water, warm tea with honey (do not give honey to children less than one year of age). Key points to getting over your common cold are getting plenty rest and getting plenty of fluids such as water, clear broths and some juice. Avoid caffeinated beverages as that can dehydrate you. Keep your room temperature comfortable but not over heated. To help with congestion and coughing, a humidifier or vaporizer maybe beneficial, but you need follow the manufacturer’s directions to keep it clean to prevent the growth of bacteria or molds.
Sinusitis (sinus infection) or rhinosinusitis is another common viral infection that does not require a visit to see your medical provider (unless this last LONGER than 10 days). Sinuses are cavities in the bones of your face around the eyes and the nose. The purpose of these sinus cavities is to add warmth and moisture to the air we breathe. The sinuses are lined with thick mucus which normally drains down the nose and down the back of the throat. When you get an infection that means that there is even MORE and THICKER mucous in those sinus cavities which can lead to them being partially or completely plugged. This is what causes the stuffy nose, headache and sinus pain/pressure (facial pain). When the sinuses do start to drain, it’ll drip down the back of the throat which can cause both a cough and sore throat. Treatment for sinus infections is again treating the symptoms. Take Tylenol /ibuprofen for fever, pain, sore throat, and headache. Warm fluids, salt water gargles for sore throat, antihistamine or saline nasal spray can help nasal congestion, cough suppressants for the cough. The use of Neti pots can be beneficial as well as a humidifier or vaporizer to keep the air moist to help loosen mucous. Again, making sure you get plenty of rest and plenty of fluids (avoiding caffeinated beverages) are key to recovery.