This phrase can sometimes seem like a double edge sword. “So, its viral….” These were the words that I recently heard. Not only was I disappointed that I had rearranged my schedule to hear these words and it didn’t really feel serious, in hindsight this is good news. If it had been more serious, I could have had a very different set of issues on my hand. There is really nothing that you can do but let it run its course. It was time to go home, put on my sweats and have a bit of a rest. I needed to keep a vigilant watch over my cough and asthma symptoms, if this progressed. I was going to be down the road of an exacerbation and is something that I did not want to deal with. In this day and age of instant information and feel good solutions, the common cold just does not play nice in that sandbox. There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the oversubscription of antibiotics. Remember that antibiotics will only be helpful in the case of a bacterial infection that is confirmed.
What is a virus or the common cold?
A virus is a small parasite consisting of a nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) enclosed in a protein that can only be replicated in a susceptible host cell.1 You may have also heard as the common cold being referred to as acute viral nasopharyngitis, viral rhinitis, rhinopharyngititis, acute corzya, head cold.2
A virus inflames the membranes of our nose and throat and there are in the neighborhood of 200 different kinds of viruses that have the potential of infecting us. The good news is that our bodies are resilient and nature generally takes care of us. I set out to get a better understanding of what virus induced inflammation this viruses was having on me. In order to be able to treat inflammation, we need to know what kind of inflammation we are dealing with.2 Considering that narrowing down the pesky virus that may be causing the common cold is quite difficult to identify, especially, if further diagnostics are not completed. It becomes challenging to fully identify the causes of inflammation. Considering that asthma can be exacerbated by virus induced inflammation, more inflammation is not what we want.
Often the common cold is diagnosed based on patient history and symptoms. An interesting fact is that there are not a lot of modern studies on viral etiology using virological technique that span an entire viral outbreak. Virus cultures, serology and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing which is even more sensitive are often not warranted or ordered in relation to the common cold. More fun fact that I discovered weas that adults shed less viruses than children. I will have to do more research on that topic but I thought was fascinating.
It is worth repeating that the best way to avoid the common cold is prevention:
- Stay away from sick people.
- Wash your hands.
- Stay home if your ill, be part of the solution, not be part of the problem.
- Flu shot and vaccinations.
The methods are not fool proof but will at least provide a barrier of protection.