As days grow colder and people start dressing warmer, the flu season inevitably begins. The average cold lasts around nine days and some people are more susceptible, catching almost every cold that’s going around in the winter. Others seem to get away with the occasional sore throat!
First signs of a cold are usually a tickly throat and/or runny nose and sneezing. Other symptoms include headache, fatigue, mild fever and loss of appetite. Nasal discharge may change from clear to green. Invisible droplets in the air or on things we touch called rhinoviruses cause most colds as they infiltrate the protective lining of the nose and throat.
Colds can be caught through being in contact with someone who is contagious and this is usually from the first two to four days after the first symptoms appear lasting up to three weeks. So why are some people more prone to catching colds than others?
Environment and health are the two main factors associated with how likely a person is to catch a cold. Densely populated areas are ideal breeding grounds for the common cold viruses. As people travel, the virus is spread from one city to another.
School children are more liable to pass colds on to each other for a number of reasons. Colds spread quickly in crowded school environments where a number of people might have a cold, passing it on to others through coughs, sneezes and touching objects with contaminated fingers.
With there being around two hundred different cold viruses, very young children can get a lot of colds until they have built up their immunity. Even so, it is not necessarily a sign of a weak immunity system if a child under two tends to catch cold after cold. It is more likely they’re being exposed to the many cold viruses.
As well as close contact to a large group of people increasing the odds of you catching a cold, those who have the virus, can pass it on to others through coughing and sneezing (spreading the virus through the air) and through physical contact with others after touching their runny nose and mouth. The virus will continue to live on toys, furniture and other objects an infected person touches.
Viruses that cause the common cold can stay alive on surfaces or in the air for three hours and even longer. So, if after touching a door handle, computer keyboard, telephone or something that’s contaminated by one of these viruses, you touch your nose, mouth or eyes, this increases your likelihood of catching a cold.
It has been found that people who are stressed or under pressure are more susceptible to catching colds. Being a smoker makes you more vulnerable to picking up a cold virus and people who smoke will find that their symptoms seem worse and last longer than average.
Colds occur all year around but it has been found that more people catch colds in the autumn and winter months.
Dry air, both inside and out, can also lower resistance to infection by the viruses that cause colds and flu. Low humidity causes dry nasal passages which make a person more susceptible to cold viruses.
If your cold symptoms last for longer than a fortnight, you have trouble breathing, you develop a chesty cough that you can’t seem to shake off or a temperature of 39.3 degrees C or higher, you should consult your doctor for advice.