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In general, people don't seem to be aware of certain facts regarding the common cold. There are a lot of misconceptions about issues such as whether this is a viral or bacterial infection, how it is contracted and how it is treated.

It is caused by a virus and not a bacteria

The common cold is caused by a viral infection called a rhinovirus and the symptoms of this infection include fever, a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, a clear nasal discharge, nasal congestion and a sore throat. The areas of the body where the virus is involved includes the throat, nose, eyes and the sinuses. These symptoms are caused as a result of the body's immune response, in the mentioned areas, to the presence of the rhinovirus.

Exposure to cold weather with clothes and/or hair does not increase the chances of contracting the common cold

Being exposed to cold weather won’t directly cause you to get the common cold. Although the virus is predominantly found during autumn and wintertime, the reason behind contracting the virus is from exposure to others who are infected by it via exposure to respiratory droplets which contain the rhinovirus. This risk increases due to the fact that people stay indoors during colder weather and are therefore more into contact with each other.

Don't “starve a cold and feed a fever” 

Viral infections tend to cause one to lose their appetite and therefore a person doesn’t eat much when they are infected with these organisms. Eating shouldn’t be forced and the patient determines how much they’re willing to consume. What is important though is to make sure that one remains well hydrated. The reason for this is because the body loses fluid from sweating due to fevers.

"Sweating out” a cold by covering yourself with clothes and blankets doesn't work

Sweating out a cold won’t have any direct impact on this condition, unfortunately. There are no studies that show any direct correlation with the amount of sweating achieved and duration of the illness. It could be said that by keeping warm one feels better and therefore this reduces the time it takes for the body to get rid of the virus causing the cold.

There are ways to decrease the course of the illness

The faster one acts to get the correct symptomatic treatment, the faster the illness will resolve. Home remedies such as chicken soup and warm water, with or without tea, and honey help to improve one’s symptoms. The patient will start to feel better which helps the body fight off the infection faster. Staying at home and resting in bed also gives the body’s immune system a better chance of fighting off the infection since the body isn’t being utilized to perform other activities. Increased physical exertion will negatively impact the immune system and the patient will take longer to recover and possibly encounter complications such as a viral pneumonia.

Antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections like the common cold

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and are ineffective against viruses. Antiviral medication can be used if the viral infection is complicated. Antibiotics will be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection occurs with the common cold. Your primary care doctor should be able to differentiate between symptoms of both scenarios and should therefore be able to manage you accordingly.

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