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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Fresh cold; the irritating condition that we can’t do anything about

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University of The Gambia Medical Students’ Association

Many a times, when I tell people that I’m sick with common cold they don’t really take me seriously. That’s understandable because most of us contract the disease several times in a year. It is a frequent ailment but unfortunately most people know just a little about it. Many different forms of its management have been suggested to me severally and frankly some of them actually helped. Now, I’ve come a long way in understanding it and thankfully, I only have common cold few times in a year. Common cold or fresh cold as it is commonly called in The Gambia is a viral infectious disease which affects the upper respiratory tract (primarily the nose). The throat, sinuses and voice box are also affected sometimes. Signs and symptoms may begin 2 days after exposure and most people usually recover in a week or so. It is the most frequent infectious disease in humans, the average adult gets 2-4 colds a year while a child can get it up to about eight times in a year. Some of the viruses that cause common cold are seasonal and occur more frequently in the cold or wet weather. Factors that increase the chances of developing cold are poor immunity, malnutrition and insufficient sleep. A balanced diet is important not only in colds but also in a range of other similar diseases. There are also reports that breast feeding can decrease the chances of common cold in infants and should be continued even if the child has cold. Fresh cold could be caused by a wide range of viral strains but the rhinovirus is the most common virus implicated. This virus was discovered by the Medical Research Council, United Kingdom in 1946. Other main causes are the adenovirus, coronavirus and the enterovirus families of viruses. The viruses spread through the air by respiratory droplets or during close contact with infected people and indirectly through handling contaminated objects like towels, cups and bottles which are then transferred to the mouth or nose. Sneezing is definitely one of the main ways the virus is spread so staying away from healthy people or covering your mouth while sneezing will prevent you from spreading it to others around you. That’s particularly hard sometimes because it can be uncontrollable and sneezing actually feels good, that’s probably because it is a way to expel the virus from our body. Another thing we tend do is sneeze into our palms. This causes the accumulation of the virus in our palms. A common Gambian culture is shaking hands with everyone we meet. That is another important way to spread fresh cold and since we can’t completely stop it, we should at least try keeping our hands clean at all times by washing our hands frequently or using hand sanitizers. We should also try to sneeze into tissue papers whenever the urge to sneeze comes along. I do not fancy the use of handkerchiefs to sneeze into and here is the reason why. When we sneeze into a handkerchief, the viruses remain on it. We go on to hold it in our hands so the hands get contaminated too and as mentioned earlier we can infect someone else. Schools and workplaces are common places for the spread of the virus and many a times the virus is brought home to other family members. Fresh cold is characterized by runny nose, coughing, sore throat, sneezing, headache, muscle ache, loss of appetite and fever. These symptoms are similar to influenza “the flu” but the symptoms of influenza are much more severe and it doesn’t usually present with a runny nose. Many a times symptoms of common cold begin with fatigue, chills, sneezing and headache, after a few days, coughing begins and the nose becomes runny. In children stomach symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and nausea are common. Common cold could be similar to malaria but malaria isn’t accompanied by any obvious cough, sore throat and respiratory illnesses. It is however advisable to visit a health facility and perform malaria tests to correctly establish the cause of those symptoms. Over 90 percent of common cold cases improve in less than 2 weeks, complications are very rare and occur only in immunosuppressed individuals, the very young and the very old. Those complications are sinusitis, pharyngitis or ear infections. Unfortunately, no vaccine for common cold exists as of now. However, hand washing can prevent one from being infected, especially after adding detergents or soap to the water. There should also be disinfection of doorknobs, toys, tables and of infected persons. We should try and cover our noses with tissues when we cough or sneeze, this would prevent the germs from getting to your hand and be transmitted to others. Since there is no cure for fresh cold, the symptoms can be managed by using pain killers for the headaches and muscle aches. Cough medicine is also helpful in case of the unbearable cough which accompanies the cold. Getting plenty rest, drinking fluids to be adequately hydrated and gargling warm water are also helpful methods. Several alternative treatments have been used for the treatment but adequate scientific evidence to support its use has not been established. Examples of these are honey, vitamin C, Echinacea products, garlic and vitamin D. Research on conventional drugs are also underway but for now, some are undergoing trials and none of them have been found to be effective and licensed for use. Now that we’ve taken a cruise through this fascinating but equally annoying condition, I think it’s important to follow the protocols and directives to prevent ourselves from contracting fresh cold or spreading it. I agree that one is unlikely to die from common cold, but there is significant economic loss associated with it. School days and workdays are missed by people all over the world and I’m sure that like me, most of you would prefer that you never suffer from fresh cold again. Sadly, that’s unlikely but one could just hope. By Lamin O Beyai]]>

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