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What is the common cold, symptoms, timeline, etc ?

The common cold is something that infects a huge number of people at any point of time, especially when the weather changes or it starts getting colder. Rare would be the person who has not been affected by the common cold. So, what is the common cold ? What are the symptoms, and what is the problems that it causes in people ? How long does the common cold last ?
Common cold is caused by a type of virus known as rhinoviruses, and is a actually a combination of problems that affect the nose and the throat (infection of these passages). Some of the symptoms of the common cold are also similar to the symptoms of influenza, and to some extent, that of mild ‘strep’ throat (which is not caused by a virus, but by a bacteria). In all these cases, proper medical attention can distinguish between them. One of the biggest problems in terms of perception about the common cold is that increased exposure to cold weather causes the cold, but this is not backed out by medical facts.
What are the symptoms of common cold ? Some of the most indicators are: cough, nasal congestion, low fever (normally does not cross 100°F, but can go upto 102°F), and a running nose. Then there are other indicators such as mild aches, scratchiness in the throat, changed voice (temporary change), and sneezing (that leaves you weak when you do sneeze) and also a slight pain in the back when you laugh heartily (you actually beg for people not to make you laugh). A running nose is mentioned, but it is actually one of the biggest indicators. And then you have some side effects that really effect you in terms of your efficiency: tiredness / weakness, headache, occasional muscle aches, tears in your eyes; these latter set of symptoms actually set you back a lot in terms of your capacity to do any kind of work (when I get a cold, I get all of these, and then do nothing but relax at home, since working is impossible when these effects of the cold are at their worst).
Initially, the nose running is very clear for the first few days, and then starts thickening (and getting colored) up over a period of time as the body gets into the infection fighting mode. These immune cells, manufactured by the body to fight the infection, also end up in the discharge from the nose and cause the thickening and coloring up of the discharge. This last bit is somewhat controversial, since many doctors apparently consider the thickening and coloring up of the discharge as an indicator of a bacterial infection, and prescribe antibiotics, but most medical personnel have met have confirmed that the discharge having a color is not an indication that there is a bacterial infection along with the viral infection.
Why do believe that more cold weather can cause an increased chance of the common cold. Well, this is because these weather conditions are actually more conducive for the virus that causes the common cold (and the humidity levels in the atmosphere is also lower).
I hope the above information helps people. Keep in mind however, that other problems such as influenza have some common symptoms with the common cold and if your cold problem is not going away, it is essential that you consult your doctor and get more scientific advice besides trying to read up on the internet.

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