How I Learned to Stop Fearing the Rhinovirus

Runny nose, itchy throat, feeling all sneezy?  That’s right everyone, it’s cold season again.  Catching the common cold is no fun, but luckily your friends at Healthy Heels have you covered with all the information you need to get yourself back in tip top shape.

First things first, how do you catch a cold?  Rhinovirus, the usual cause of what we call the “common cold”, is spread by coming into contact with someone who is already infected.  This can occur through direct contact, touching contaminated objects (like doorknobs or keyboards), or coming into contact with sneeze droplets in the air.  The virus normally enters the body through the nose or mouth, so touching an object exposed to the virus and then your face is a sure fire way to get sick.  Once the cold virus enters the body, it attaches to the lining of your nose or throat.  Your immune system responds by sending white blood cells to attack the virus, inflaming your nose and throat, and producing a bunch of mucus.  You probably recognize this as miserable-swollen-face syndrome (obviously not a technical term!).  Other common cold symptoms include itchy or sore throat, sneezing nasal congestion, watery eyes, and mucus drainage.

Getting wet or chilled won’t cause a cold, but may make you more susceptible to catching one because your immune system is suppressed.  Other factors that make you more likely to catch a cold are excessive fatigue, emotional distress, and allergies with nose or throat symptoms.  Colds are contagious for 3 days after symptoms initially develop, so if you start to get the sniffles make sure you’re washing your hands frequently and try to avoid direct contact with other people.

If you’ve already caught a cold, there isn’t a proven cure, but you can treat the symptoms.  Over the counter medicines that might be helpful are anti-inflammatories like Tylenol and Advil to help the fever, aches, sinus pressure, and sore throat.  If you’re into holistic remedies, try gargling salty water to relieve throat pain, sleeping with an extra pillow under your head to drain your sinuses, and blowing your nose gently and often.  For more home remedies, you can head here.  Remember, the cold is caused by a virus, so taking antibiotic medication will do nothing for you.  Colds generally last around 10 days.  If your symptoms persist longer, or are more severe (high fever or muscle aches) chances are you actually have the flu and it’s time to call your doctor.   You can always schedule an appointment at Campus Health by calling the appointment line at (919) 966-2281.

So there you have it.  Everything you need to know to fight the common cold.  Be well, Tarheels!




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