Head congestion, coughing and a scratchy throat — you may recognize these as cold symptoms. But what causes a cold? And what can you do to relieve your cough and cold symptoms?
What Causes a Cold?
The common cold is caused by a virus, most commonly the rhinovirus. The virus enters your body through your eyes, mouth or nose and causes a viral infection in your nose and throat.
These viruses can be spread multiple ways. When a sick person coughs, sneezes or even talks, the virus spreads through droplets in the air. Other causes of cold symptoms include touching surfaces contaminated by the virus, such as doorknobs, cellphones, toys or utensils.
These viruses can lead to head congestion, chest congestion or sometimes both. If you’re experiencing symptoms in your head, like a runny nose, watery eyes or a headache, then you probably have a “head cold.” However, if your chest is congested and you can’t quit coughing, you probably have a “chest cold.”
Several factors can increase your risk of catching a cold. If a person has a weakened immune system, smokes regularly or is under age six, they are at greater risk of contracting a virus.
Recognize Cold Symptoms
Do you feel like you’ve caught a cold? Check out these common cold symptoms:
- Runny, stuffy nose, and nasal swelling
- Sore throat
- Mild body aches
What Causes Coughing?
Coughing is a reflex that helps you clear your throat of mucus or other irritants. One of the most common causes for persistent coughing is a viral upper respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold or the flu. When you have a cold, your body creates more mucus to both remove the infection and protect the body from other bacteria and viruses.2 [JF3] A cough from a cold helps remove that extra mucus from your lungs and throat so you can breathe easier.
How Colds Trigger Nasal Swelling and Congestion
During a cold, your body is creating extra mucus to relieve the germs in your nose and sinuses, and this extra mucus causes the veins in your nose to become inflamed, resulting in swollen tissues. This can interfere with the sinuses’ ability to drain, causing mucus buildup. You’ll feel congested — unable to breathe through your nose with pressure or pain in your forehead, between or behind your eyes, and in your teeth.
Is it a Cold or the Flu?
Colds and the flu share many of the same symptoms, so it can be almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. Your doctor can administer a special test in the first few days of your illness to determine if you have influenza, but you can also recognize subtle differences in symptoms. If you catch a cold, symptoms are usually milder and you’re more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Overall, flu symptoms come on stronger and more abruptly, manifesting as headaches, fever, chills and aches.
Common Cold Treatment
If you notice signs of the common cold, you can take steps to improve your symptoms and make yourself more comfortable. Here are some cough and cold treatment tips. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
It can be hard to slow down when you have a cold, but your body needs the rest. Get plenty of sleep each night and avoid daily tasks that cause overexertion. If you need to take time off work or keep your children home from school to recover, don’t hesitate. This also avoids spreading the virus to others.
Staying hydrated can help combat cold symptoms, so always keep that water glass full. Water, fruit juices or clear broth can keep you hydrated and loosen congestion. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages like coffee or soda, which can make dehydration worse.
Moisturize the Air
Use a cool-mist vaporizer or a humidifier to keep moisture in the air and prevent dry nasal passages and airways, which can increase inflammation that leads to nasal congestion and cough. Make sure to change the water and clean the unit properly.
Help Prevent Pesky Cold Symptoms
Do your best to make it through the cold season without a runny nose or persistent cough by taking steps to decrease your chances of getting a cold and experiencing cold symptoms.
- Wash hands frequently
- Avoid touching your face
- Don’t share personal items like utensils and towels
- Stay away from people who are sick
Overall, make healthy lifestyle decisions to boost your immunity, which includes eating nutritious food, sleeping eight hours, exercising and managing stress.
Try SUDAFED® to Relieve Head Congestion, Cold and Flu Symptoms
A multi-symptom medicine can help relieve the congestion, coughing and aches that typically accompany the cold, flu and head congestion. Plus, a multi-symptom product can be more convenient than taking individual products. Try SUDAFED PE® Head Congestion + Flu Severe for symptom relief. Always read and follow the label carefully, and make sure the product is right for you.