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How the cold affects our respiratory system

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

We understand by common cold or catarrh a mild viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, that is, it causes discomfort at different levels, but mainly affects the nasal and pharyngeal level. Do you wonder how the cold affects our respiratory system exactly? If so, keep reading this FastlyHealarticle in which we talk about this mild, common health problem.

Respiratory system

The respiratory system of people is mainly divided between the upper or upper respiratory tract , which are those affected by the cold , and the lower or lower respiratory tract . Thus, the upper respiratory tract includes the nasal cavity, the mouth, the pharynx or throat and the larynx and is covered by a mucosa that helps to trap small particles before they reach the lungs. These, made up of bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli, are included in the lower respiratory tract, along with the trachea.

Effects of the cold on the respiratory system

The common cold virus or rhinovirus enters the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes. Viruses have to penetrate the cells of the mucosa of the respiratory tract to reproduce and thus infect more cells, multiplying very quickly. And how does the cold affect our respiratory system ? Among the effects of the common cold on the respiratory system we find the following:

  • As soon as the body detects the presence of these viruses and begins to react to control them and eliminate the infected cells.
  • The cells of the immune system responsible for the defense of the body begin to proliferate in the lymph nodes, for which certain substances are secreted that cause inflammation and are also related to the appearance of fever, general malaise or headaches. That is why it is common for us to notice enlarged and sore nodes on both sides of the neck.
  • As a reflex to try to clear the airways, coughing, runny nose, and sneezing occur.
  • If the immune system cannot eliminate the virus and it continues to spread, more effects of the cold end up on the respiratory system. The virus advances in the respiratory tract and, even, secondary infections (mainly viral or bacterial) can appear and the picture can evolve to complications in the lower respiratory tract, from the trachea to the lungs.

As we can see, the reaction of our body to the virus is responsible for much of the symptoms that appear in the cold and, paradoxically, it is good news, since it indicates that the disease is being fought.

Symptoms of the common cold

The most frequent symptoms , which usually begin 2-3 days after contact with the virus, are the following:

  • Watery and clear or thick and yellowish nasal discharge.
  • Nasal blockage, which is what makes breathing more difficult.
  • Sore throat.
  • Ocular discharge
  • General discomfort.
  • Headache.
  • Sometimes a not very high fever.
  • Alterations in smell and taste.

High fever, difficult breathing, respiratory sounds or very intense pain are reason to consult with the doctor, since they can indicate complications of the cold due to affectation of other organs such as otitis, infection of the paranasal sinuses or that an infection has appeared in the respiratory tract lower, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

How to cure the common cold

The common cold usually resolves spontaneously in 7-10 days, in which it is recommended to rest and drink enough fluids . Depending on the clinical picture, the symptoms can be treated with drugs:

  • Analgesics.
  • Nasal decongestants.
  • Antitusígenos.
  • Antipyretics.

In no case should you take antibiotics, as they do not work against viruses. If the disease does not remit or worsens, you should see your doctor again.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to How the cold affects our respiratory system , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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