Common Cold has a Large Impact on Society and Health Care System

A goose family heading home for supper at Echo Dale Provincial Park recently. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
A goose family heading home for supper at Echo Dale Provincial Park recently. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

A doctor finished examining a man in his office.

“It’s just a common cold,” he announced, “There is no cure, and you’ll just have to live with it until it goes away.”

“But, Doctor,” the patient complained, “it’s making me so miserable.”

The doctor rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Then he said, “Look, go home and take a hot bath. Then put a bathing suit on and run around the block four times.”

“What!” the patient exclaimed, “I’ll get pneumonia!”

“Exactly,” the doctor replied, “We have a cure for pneumonia.”

This joke is from Ryan Murphy found on the Internet.

In 1931, an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on the common cold said, “The common cold is so common that we are apt to pass it by with a contemptuous gesture, unless, of course, we are the sufferers ourselves.”

The illness is very costly in terms of direct medical costs and indirect costs owing to missed work because of illness or caring for an ill child.

The common cold is an acute, self-limiting viral infection of the upper respiratory tract involving the nose, sinuses, pharynx and larynx.

The virus is spread by hand contact with secretions from an infected person or aerosol of the secretions and virus. The incubation period varies but is just under two days for rhinovirus.

Symptoms typically peak at one to three days and last seven to 10 days, although they occasionally persist for three weeks. Symptoms can be mild to severe.

The incidence of the common cold declines with age. Children under two years have about six infections a year, adults two to three and older people about one per year.

Stress and poor sleep may increase the risk of the common cold among adults, whereas attendance at a daycare center increases the risk among preschool children.

The symptoms and signs of the common cold overlap with those of other conditions like allergic rhinitis, sore throat, sinusitis, ear infection and influenza. If you have these symptoms then you should see your doctor.

How can we prevent common cold? A Cochrane systematic review of 67 studies of various types was looked at. The majority of results suggested that physical preventive measures such as hand washing reduced the risk of getting or spreading upper respiratory tract infections.

When I have a cold, I lie on the sofa for three days and sleep a lot. On the fourth day I feel better. I am ready to go to work. It’s like magic.

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