Common cold symptoms causing anxiety spike
COUGHS and colds are a predictable part of life but this year the first signs of a scratchy throat or runny nose are likely to invite some fear and anxiety.
The Australian Lung Foundation estimates that children and healthcare workers have roughly six to 12 respiratory viral infections a year, adults normally six or so and it seems like children in daycare have one a week.
Generally you catch one of the hundreds of cold viruses from someone who has kindly shared their own infection with you by either coughing or sneezing near you, or perhaps leaving their viral deposit on a surface somewhere that you touch.
The virus is harmless when sitting on your skin but the most common way it gets into your body is through touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The virus then enters the cells in your respiratory tract and starts to multiply.
In the early stages you would not even notice the infection, we call this the incubation period.
The next stage is when you become symptomatic. The cells that are infected with the virus will send signals to the rest of the body asking for help, which will trigger extra blood flow and swelling in the lining of the throat, nose, sinuses and airways.
This gives you the sore throat and tickly cough. Mucous cells in those areas will swell and respond by activating and making extra mucous, which gives a runny nose, sinus congestion, mucous down the back of the throat and in the upper airways. Mucous will always change colour over time regardless of bacteria so colour is not a good indicator of needing antibiotics.
All the swelling and mucous can block the tubes to the ears or sinuses and it can collect in the lung tissue.
Bacteria can become trapped in these areas and multiply, which then causes middle ear or sinus infections, or even pneumonia.
Tonsils will normally swell with viral infections, but they can also get infected by bacteria themselves causing tonsillitis.
Antibiotics are useless for viruses and for slowing down mucous production or swelling.
Your GP will wait to see evidence of the bacterial infection in your ears, sinuses, throat or lungs before they reach for antibiotics.
Thankfully, most colds don't need your GP at all and the usual remedies of paracetamol, lozenges, menthol rubs, soups and voice rest will do the trick.