Islamabad: One day you’re feeling fine, the next, your nose is running, you’re sneezing and your throat feels like you’ve swallowed broken glass. Welcome to the annual cold season. Most of us will get between one and three colds each year, usually in autumn and winter, caused by one of more than 200 different cold viruses.
And there is little you can do about it a cure for the common cold remains one of the Holy Grails of medicine but a better understanding of how these viruses spread could be the key. What we do know for sure is that the first 24 hours are crucial; this is when the infection takes hold and starts to multiply, causing symptoms.
How to Stop a Cold This Winter
Here, with the help of three leading experts — Professor John Oxford, a virologist at the Queen Mary University of London, Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University and Professor Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London — we explain what is going on during the first 24 hours of your cold and what you can do to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
The first minutes:
Catching a cold is about a combination of factors coming together; not only do you need to come into contact with the virus — for example, from a sneeze or a bug your child picked up at school — but the virus must also overcome your body’s own defenses. A single sneeze contains hundreds of millions of virus particles known as virions — each of which can trigger a cold.
‘Depending on how far you are away from the sneeze, you may breathe in 10,000 virus particles, but only a few hundred will land on the exposed epithelial cells of the nose, throat, and upper airway. These virus cells have evolved to invade the epithelial cells if they get the chance,’ says Professor Oxford.
The invading virus’s first hurdle is to run the gauntlet of the cilia, tiny hair-like cells dotted throughout the nasal cavity that moves in a rhythm to sweep mucus and viruses down the throat and swallowed out of harm’s way. Many millions of virus particles are also trapped in saliva and swallowed away.
Even those viruses that do reach the upper respiratory tract — the nose, mouth, throat, and voice box — face another almost insurmountable obstacle. The epithelial cells that line these airways are so tightly bonded together, they usually provide an impermeable seal that keeps infections at bay.
‘These cells also have sensors on their surface that detect the presence of hostile viruses and rapidly send messages to the cell to produce cytokines, chemical messengers that call in help from white blood cells and can also destroy the viruses themselves,’ says Professor Oxford. dailymail
Tips to beat a sore throat:
Gargling with warm salt water may help to reduce inflammation. (It is not recommended for children.) Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of partly cooled boiled water, gargle with the solution, then spit it out. Repeat as necessary. “It’s inexpensive and everyone can do it at home – I recommend this to most patients,” says Abraham Khodadi, a prescribing pharmacist who vlogs weekly about health on YouTube as Abraham the Pharmacist.