What Is A Head Cold? What Is A Head Cold?

What Is A Head Cold?


Colds are upper respiratory infections commonly referred to as the common cold. 

In adults, it costs productive hours at work and prevents children from attending school. It usually requires only a few days of bed rest. I'll discuss the basics of a cold, its symptoms, and its causes in this article.

I will also tell you how to diagnose and treat a cold. Additionally, I will discuss the possible risks and complications associated with it. Finally, I'll discuss how to prevent a cold and when to see a doctor.

The Basics of Cold

A cold is not caused by a specific virus but by one of many possible viruses that may cause symptoms. A viral respiratory tract infection is usually the cause of this condition.


It can affect your routines and normal activities, although children have mild symptoms.


Head Cold vs. Chest Cold

" Colds may be described as "head colds" or "chest colds." The term "head cold" refers to an upper respiratory virus that causes symptoms such as headaches and sinus congestion, while the term "chest cold" refers to a virus that causes symptoms such as chest congestion and coughing.


These are nicknames we've given to a set of symptoms. Colds have many similarities, including head colds and chest colds. Viral infections are contagious.


Symptoms such as sore throat, coughing, headaches, and body ache also last less than three weeks. Common colds are also known as head colds. The upper respiratory tract is affected, and the nose and throat membranes are inflamed.


Runny noses, watery eyes, and sneezing are common symptoms. Chest colds are also known as acute viral bronchitis and are lower respiratory tract infections. When an upper respiratory infection spreads to the lungs, it often results in pneumonia.


The airways are inflamed and produce mucus when you have a chest cold. It isn't easy to breathe when your airways are narrowed by mucus. Chest congestion and coughing result from this.


The symptoms of a cold

It normally takes two to three days for a head cold to begin to show symptoms.


A few of them are:


These symptoms, in whatever combination they appear, usually last between 7-10 days before clearing up. Some underlying health conditions, such as asthma, may have exacerbated the illness if the symptoms persist for more than ten days.


Causes of Colds


Respiratory viruses typically cause colds.

There are over 200 kinds of viruses that can cause this problem. Rhinoviruses most commonly cause colds. Colds attributed to them account for 10-50% of all colds. Asthma development and chronic pulmonary disease worsening have also been linked to rhinoviruses. A respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, common human coronaviruses, and human metapneumoviruses can also cause colds.


It is not cold weather that causes colds, even though most people get them in winter and spring. Since the cold weakens the nasal lining's defense mechanism and people spend more time indoors, this pattern occurs.


Colds can strike at any time of year. Infected individuals transmit the viruses through close personal contact and droplets of saliva or mucus released into the air. Direct contact with infected surfaces, such as doorknobs, phones, and toys, can lead to infection.

Diagnosing a Cold

Colds are usually not diagnosed by your healthcare provider. When you have symptoms of an infection, you can self-diagnose.


The cold shares some symptoms with other respiratory infections, such as the flu, so you should see your doctor. To rule out other infections, your doctor may order some tests based on your symptoms.

Treating a Cold

Colds are self-limited viral infections that usually resolve on their own. Symptoms cannot be cured, but certain treatments can help provide relief.

OTC Medications and Treatments

It is possible to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medications without a prescription.

They include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can relieve muscle aches, headaches, and lower fevers. Ensure that you follow the instructions on the patient information leaflet and only use them for a short period. Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) can cause Reye's syndrome, a rare but dangerous condition in children and teenagers.

  • Cough Suppressants: Coughing can be eased with cold and cough medicines.

  • Children under six should not be treated with cough suppressants due to possible side effects.

  • Throat lozenge and sprays: Lozenges help soothe the throat, while throat sprays numb the area, relieving pain caused by sore throats. Honey can be just as effective as tablets and sprays.

  • Antihistamines: Medications such as loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) relieve symptoms similar to those of an allergic reaction, such as runny noses, sneezing, and watery eyes.

  • Vitamin C, D, and Zinc supplements boost immunity and general body wellness.


If you are taking any other medications, check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you can combine them with OTC treatments. Check each drug's ingredients to ensure you're not taking too much of one substance, as some cold medicines contain multiple OTC medications.


Colds are usually caused by viruses rather than bacteria, so antibiotics are not recommended. A bacterial infection can be more difficult to treat in the future if antibiotics are used excessively.

Home Remedies

There are no scientifically proven methods for home remedies, but they are safe and widely used, so they are worth trying.

Some of them include the following:

  • You lose water through coughing and a runny nose when you have a cold. Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, juices, and soups.

  • Get enough rest: Sleeping and resting give your body time to recover, which benefits your health.

  • Humidifier: Keeping the air moist will prevent your mucous membranes from further irritation by dry air.

  • Make a saltwater gargle by adding 14 or 12 teaspoons of salt to an 8-ounce glass of water. Warm water soothes your throat more than cold water. Giving salt water gargles to children younger than six is not recommended, as they cannot properly gargle.

  • A warm compress on your sinus area can help you feel more comfortable. Dip a towel in hot water, wring out the excess water, and use it as a warm compress.

Although these home remedies won't cure your cold, they relieve symptoms while you wait for the infection to clear.


Risks and Complications from a Cold

A cold usually clears the virus within 7-10 days for most people. In some cases, the infection persists and leads to more serious complications.

Potential complications include:

  • An asthma attack or exacerbation can be caused by a cold. You may also experience wheezing and chest tightness in this case.

  • You can get an acute ear infection from your mouth or nose if you have a head cold. Infection occurs when fluid builds up, allowing bacteria to grow. A mild ear discomfort is normal during a cold due to referred pain from sinus congestion; however, if the pain persists on one side or is severe, you should consult your doctor.

  • One of the main prevalent side effects of a cold is sinusitis. Sinus pain and pressure are evident symptoms. In most cases, acute sinusitis resolves on its own within two weeks. See your doctor if your sinus pain persists for more than ten days without improvement.

  • People with weak immune systems are more likely to develop secondary bacterial infections. It is possible to develop a secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, following a cold. It is important to seek medical assistance if you develop increased or worsening symptoms.

Preventing a Cold

The following practices can be used to prevent colds since there is no vaccine available:

  • Frequently wash your hands: Use soap and water to wash your hands carefully for at least 20 seconds. Children can sing the birthday song to spend the recommended amount of time. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer regularly if washing your hands regularly is not feasible.

  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands: Because your hands will likely come into contact with contaminated surfaces, keep them away from your nose, eyes, and mouth.

  • Colds are contagious and spread through droplets in the air and on surfaces from infected individuals. The more physically close you are to an infected person, the more likely you will contract the disease.

  • You should disinfect the space whenever you share a space with an infected person or have an infected visitor. Pay attention to high-touch areas such as handles, countertops, tables, and doorknobs. Other areas can be cleaned as often as you like when they are visibly dirty.

  • Keep your body healthy by eating fruits and vegetables and sleeping up to 8 hours a night.

Make sure you take extra precautions if you have a family member or friend with a head cold. These same practices will prevent you from spreading the infection if you are infected.

When to See a Doctor

In most situations, you do not need to see a doctor or healthcare provider for a cold because it will resolve on its own within a couple of weeks.

If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, consult a doctor:

  • Symptoms that continue for more than ten days

  • Cold symptoms that are uncommon

  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

  • Headache, sore throat, or sinus pain

  • More than two days of fever greater than 38.5 C

  • Lightheaded


You might have another infection in such cases, so your doctor may recommend some tests. Pediatricians should be consulted if infants less than three months old have a cold with a fever.

Consult your pediatrician if your child exhibits severe cold symptoms from the beginning.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the typical duration of a head cold?

It usually takes seven to ten days for a cold to pass. Three stages are present: the early stage (days 1-3), the peak stage (days 4-7), and the late stage (days 8-10). You will likely fully recover after 7-10 days, even if you don't receive supportive treatment. Symptoms should be discussed with your doctor if they persist.


How bad is a head cold compared to a chest cold?

There is no difference between a head cold and a chest cold. The inflammation of the lungs' airways causes a chest cold, which causes the airways to swell and produce mucus, making breathing difficult. A head cold usually feels worse than this.


Is it possible to catch the flu from a head cold?

It is not possible to catch the flu from a cold. While they share similar symptoms, these two respiratory viruses are different. In high-risk groups, the influenza virus may lead to hospitalization and sometimes death due to its more severe respiratory infection.


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