Causes of Head Colds
Head colds, which are also known as upper respiratory infections, are common illnesses caused by various types of viruses. These viruses can be spread through contact with an infected person, exposure to objects or surfaces that have been contaminated, or through the air.
Knowing the causes of head colds can help you to prevent them and reduce your risk of infection.
Head colds, also known as the common cold, are a viral infection carried in the upper respiratory system usually caused by a type of virus called rhinovirus. Rhinoviruses are highly contagious and can be passed to other people through contact with saliva, mucus and respiratory droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can survive on surfaces and then be transferred to other people through contact with those surfaces.
Other potential causes of head colds include syncytial viruses, parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses and human coronaviruses among others. Head colds can also be caused by allergens such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander entering the nose. In some cases, a head cold could be caused by underlying conditions such as asthma or sinusitis.
Once inside your body, the viruses cause inflammation that leads to symptoms of a head cold such as sneezing, coughing, congestion and runny nose. It is important to recognize these symptoms early in order to avoid spreading the infection further. Furthermore it is also important for affected individuals to take precautionary measures such as:
- Washing hands thoroughly
- Using hand sanitizer regularly
These measures eliminate traces of transmitted viruses from your hands and other surfaces from which they could spread further via hand-to-mouth contact.
Cold viruses are not the only cause of head colds. Bacterial infections can also cause similar symptoms, although they typically do not occur as often. Bacterial head colds are caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus, which are bacteria that live in the air we breathe. These bacteria can enter the body when we inhale particles that have been released into the environment either through sneezing or coughing or from contact with surfaces contaminated with these germs.
Some cases of sinus infections might be caused by bacterial infections, however, most cases result from viruses which is why antibiotics should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor for a bacterial infection and not for viral infections such as severe cold symptoms.
Head colds, also known as the common cold, are one of the most widespread illnesses and are caused by a variety of different triggers. This includes allergens and irritants that can aggravate symptoms but are not themselves responsible for contagion.
These triggers can create an inflammatory response in your nose, throat, eyes or sinuses and cause additional swelling which can lead to the development of symptoms associated with a head cold. Common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pollens from trees and flowers
- Mold spores
- Animal dander
- Smoke or pollutants
These substances create an exaggerated immune response when they come into contact with your respiratory system, leading to congestion and breathing difficulties that mimic that caused by a cold virus.
Allergic rhinitis is especially common during periods when pollen counts are high or during specific activities such as petting or grooming animals. It is important to note however that these allergen triggers cannot cause you to become infected with a cold but may make you more susceptible should you encounter a virus. Avoiding identified allergens wherever possible can help reduce the intensity of any symptoms you do experience from airborn viruses.
Symptoms of Head Colds
A head cold, also known as rhinovirus, is a common virus-caused illness characterized by sneezing, coughing, congestion and a runny or stuffy nose. In the early stages of a head cold, you may experience a sore throat, a low-grade fever, muscle ache, and fatigue. Understanding the symptoms of a head cold is the essential first step to understanding how to it can be treated. Let’s take a look at the symptoms in more detail:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Low-grade fever
- Muscle ache
Congestion is one of the most common symptoms of head colds. This can manifest as clogged nasal passages, post-nasal drip and other forms of discomfort caused by excess mucus in the throat. Nasal congestion can also cause headaches, sinus pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the face. Other symptoms that may be related to congestion include:
- Sore throat
When a head cold starts to ebb and your symptoms become less severe, drainage may occur as your body eliminates the excess buildup of mucus and eliminates any infection. However, during this early phase this runny nose can bring additional irritation to an already scratchy throat. During this time it’s important to listen to your body’s cues and focus on resting up as much as possible so that you can get better quickly.
Other ways to help alleviate nasal congestion include:
- Over-the-counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine.
- Commonly used home remedies like steam inhalation, saline nasal drops/spray or warm compresses placed around the face while sleeping at night.
Always make sure that you’re adequately hydrated with plenty of water when you’re suffering from a head cold; dehydration further slows down your recovery so it’s best avoided if at all possible!
Coughing is a common symptom of the head cold, usually stemming from the accumulation of mucus produced by your body’s immune response to the cold virus. This mucus can cause irritation in your throat and bronchial tubes, leading to fits of coughing. You may also experience chest congestion, resulting in tightness and discomfort in your chest.
Other symptoms associated with coughing such as sneezing, runny nose or congestion are caused by an increase of blood flow to your sensory organs as part of the body’s immune response. Coughing is usually worse during nighttime when you’re lying down, making sleep difficult.
Sore throat is a common symptom of the head cold and is generally associated with nasal drainage. A sore throat often occurs first and typically feels itchy, dry and scratchy, as well as causing a burning sensation in the throat. Swallowing can be very painful, and sometimes poor appetite or loss of appetite may occur. The soreness can become worse due to coughing, eating, talking or sneezing. Sore throat may feel worse in the morning but usually decreases throughout the day as a person starts to heal from their head cold.
Other possible symptoms related to sore throat include hoarseness, swollen tonsils and difficulty swallowing.
A runny or stuffy nose is one of the most common symptoms of a head cold. It occurs due to an inflammation in the nasal passages, caused by viruses like the rhinovirus that attack the body’s mucous membrane. The membranes then become swollen and irritated, which causes them to secrete excessive amounts of liquid that we often refer to as a runny nose. This liquid may be clear – meaning it may contain excessive amounts of water and other proteins secreted from the cells lining the nasal passages – or cloudy and thick, which can indicate an infection in the nasal cavity due to white blood cells attacking viruses and bacteria present there.
Other symptoms associated with a head cold include:
- Sore throat
If these symptoms persist for more than 10 days or become severe it is advisable to see a doctor.
Avoiding head colds can be as simple as taking some preventive measures such as washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding close contact with people who are already ill. Additionally, you can boost your immune system with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and by getting plenty of rest.
Let’s explore further ways to prevent a head cold:
Avoid contact with people who are sick
One of the best ways to avoid getting a head cold is to avoid contact with people who are currently suffering from an illness. This includes any direct contact, such as touching or shaking hands, or even just being in closer proximity to the person who is sick. If the person is coughing or sneezing in your general vicinity, you should leave that area if possible. Also, make sure to wash your hands regularly and do not touch your eyes and nose with unwashed hands as this can spread germs and viruses.
In addition, you should also take preventative measures like wearing protective face masks when out in public places such as airplanes and buses, where you may come into contact with people who are ill. You should also make sure to practice good hygiene by regularly washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding touching people’s faces when possible. It is also important to practice good health by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, and avoiding exposure to environmental triggers like smoke or pollution as much as possible.
Wash your hands often
It is essential to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to reduce your risk of becoming infected with a virus or bacteria. If you do not wash your hands, you will be more likely to become ill and potentially spread the infection.
The following steps should be taken when washing your hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub for at least 20 seconds and rinse well under clean running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Handwashing can help protect you from germs that can cause serious illnesses like influenza (flu) or food-borne illness such as Salmonella infection (Salmonellosis). It can also help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 caused by coronaviruses, which is why it’s particularly important right now during the pandemic period.
Avoid touching your face
Avoiding face-touching is one of the primary ways to reduce the risk of catching a head cold. Infected droplets from an ill person can easily spread through touching surfaces and then transferring those germs through direct contact with your eyes, nose or mouth. To prevent catching a head cold, it’s important to practice frequent and proper handwashing before touching your face as well as being conscious of not rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth when out in public.
It’s especially important to wash hands before preparing food, eating, treating wounds and after using the restroom. In addition, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, faucet handles and countertops can help keep germs from spreading from one person to another.
By following some simple safety procedures you can minimize your risk of catching a head cold by avoiding contact with contaminated objects and surfaces as much as possible:
- Practice frequent and proper handwashing.
- Be conscious of not rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth when out in public.
- Wash hands before preparing food, eating, treating wounds and after using the restroom.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, faucet handles and countertops.
A head cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, and is usually caused by a virus. It can cause symptoms such as a runny nose, throat tickle, congestion, sneezing, and a mild fever. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help ease the symptoms and speed up recovery.
Let’s look at a few of them:
Head colds, also known as viral upper respiratory infections, are caused by a virus and usually last from one to two weeks in duration. Allergies can also cause problems like coughing and sneezing, but will typically not produce the typical runny nose and sinus pressure associated with a head cold.
When suffering from a head cold, over-the-counter medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Many of these medications contain various combinations of antihistamines, decongestants and pain relievers. The most common medications include:
- pseudoephedrine, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin for fever or headaches;
- guaifenesin (Robitussin) to help loosen nasal secretions and make it easier to clear your nose;
- dexbrompheniramine (Dimetapp) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) for sneezing or runny nose;
- phenylephrine HCl (Sudafed PE) for stuffy nose; and
- mentholated creams or ointments for chest congestion such as Vicks VapoRub.
Always read labels carefully before taking any medication, so that you understand what is in it and how much medication you should take. If your symptoms do not improve within a few days after beginning treatment with over-the-counter medications, contact your healthcare provider immediately as you may need something more powerful to get rid of your head cold.
When it comes to treating a head cold, a few simple home remedies can help you find relief from the symptoms caused by a common cold. These remedies include:
- Rest: Get plenty of rest and sleep to help you recover faster.
- Fluids: Drink lots of fluids, like water and juice, to help loosen mucus and prevent dehydration.
- Humidifier: Use a humidifier in your bedroom to keep the air moist and reduce stuffiness in your nose.
- Steam: Take steamy showers or use an inhaler for congestion relief.
- Spicy foods: Eat spicy foods that contain capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, which may help clear out blocked nasal passages.
- Nasal rinses: Use saline drops or irrigate your sinuses with a neti pot (a device used to rinse out the nose and sinuses) with saline solution three times daily for relief from congestion and sinus pressure.
- Honey and lemon tea: Make yourself some honey-lemon tea which is said to help soothe sore throats and clear nasal passages when taken several times a day.
- Essential oils: Steam inhalation with therapeutic grade essential oils such as eucalyptus oil can be used to open nasal passageways.
Natural remedies can help soothe the symptoms of a head cold but are not a cure. It is important to consult a doctor if the symptoms persist. Common natural remedies for head colds may include
- drinking plenty of fluids,
- getting plenty of rest,
- avoiding contact with those who are sick,
- and using echinacea supplements or other natural extracts.
It is also beneficial to try steam inhalation or essential oils such as tea tree and peppermint oil to clear congestion. Honey has been used as an old-fashioned remedy for throat discomfort for centuries. Adding honey to warm water or tea can be helpful in soothing coughing and it also helps provide energy if you’re feeling tired from your cold. Additionally, some people find relief with taking probiotics, vitamins C and D, zinc supplementations which helps enhance immune system defense mechanisms against viruses that cause common colds.
Finally, it’s important to practice good hygiene including:
- washing hands thoroughly with soap after going out in public or coming into contact with anyone who appears sick;
- covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing;
- avoiding sharing utensils;
- staying away from smokey environments;
- keeping your home clean;
- changing clothes that may have been contaminated etc.
These steps will reduce the chances of catching another head cold in the future.
When to See a Doctor
Most head colds will not require medical attention, and can be treated by taking over-the-counter medications, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting. However, if your symptoms last more than 5-7 days or become more severe, if you experience a high fever, or if your symptoms suddenly worsen, it’s important to contact your doctor for a medical evaluation.
In this section, we’ll discuss when to see a doctor for a head cold.
A fever is defined as a body temperature that is higher than normal. For adults, the normal body temperature is considered to be between 97.8 F (36.5 C) and 99 F (37.2 C).
It is important to keep in mind that fever can be a sign of infection, so it should always be taken seriously. Generally, you should see a doctor if you have a fever that lasts more than three days or if it reaches over 103°F (39°C). A fever accompanied by other symptoms such as chills, muscle aches, coughs and cold symptoms may indicate infection caused by viruses or bacteria and may require medical attention.
Fever can also be associated with other medical conditions such as inflammatory diseases like lupus and certain types of cancer. Therefore, if your fever persists despite homecare measures, it is important to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you have a fever or severe headache that does not respond to medication, it is recommended that you seek medical attention. Your doctor may decide to order laboratory tests, imaging studies, or other diagnostic test to rule out any potential underlying health concerns. Additionally, your doctor may advise antibiotic therapy if an infection is the root cause of your symptoms.
It is important to strictly adhere to the instructions given by your doctor and take all necessary preventative measures. If left untreated, your symptoms can lead to more serious illnesses such as:
Chest pain can be a sign of many serious medical conditions that require urgent attention and should not go untreated. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain along with any of the following:
- difficulty breathing
- tightness in your chest
- recurring palpitations
- rapid heart rate
- nausea or faintness
In some cases, these may be signs of a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event and require immediate medical intervention.
If your chest pain does not appear to require emergency attention but persists for more than several days or is accompanied by shortness of breath, fatigue or other symptoms such as cold/flu-like symptoms, it is important to contact your health care provider for a thorough evaluation. They can help you determine the cause of your chest pain and recommend the best treatment plan accordingly.
If you have been dealing with a head cold and start experiencing difficulty with your breathing, you should consult with a doctor to determine the cause. In some cases, a head cold can lead to breathing difficulties that are the result of congestion in your lungs or chest. This is especially true if your cold has been accompanied by swollen lymph nodes or a fever.
Other possible causes may include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, or allergies that have been aggravated by the common cold symptoms.
If you notice any additional symptoms such as chest pain or coughing up discolored mucus, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the cause of your breathing problems and provide appropriate treatment options for managing the severity of your condition.
Colds can easily lead to more serious respiratory illnesses if left untreated, so it’s important that you do not take any risks when dealing with any issues involving difficulty breathing.