When you’re coughing and sneezing
, one of the best things you can do to get healthy is to learn what your cold symptoms
are trying to tell you.
The Stuffy Nose: What the Nose Really Knows
A "stuffy" nose, one of the common cold symptoms
, is caused by inflammation of the blood vessels, which restricts airflow in the nose. According to Professor Ron Eccles*, founder and Director of the Common Cold Centre, Cardiff University, this symptom may be an attempt by our immune system to raise the temperature within the nose, which creates a hostile environment that affects how successfully viruses can replicate. Mucus in the nose and airway is related to the body’s immune response.1
If you’re having a hard time breathing due to a stuffy nose, a nasal decongestant or nasal spray can often provide fast-acting relief.
Coughing: Another Bothersome Symptom
Although they can be annoying, coughs exist to clear your airways of irritants. Colds induce coughing
by causing inflammation around the nerve endings in the throat and airways, and this causes a hypersensitivity of the normal cough reflex.1
While coughs can help your body rid itself of harmful secretions, they can often be a nuisance if you’re at work or just trying to live your life. A cold medicine with a cough suppressant or cough drops may be able to help soothe the throat and calm the cough reflex to reduce dry cough
The Surprisingly Mighty SneezeSneezing
, another one of the common cold symptoms
, is a protective reflex that occurs when foreign matter or external stimulants reach the nasal mucosa. This triggers the release of histamines, which irritate the nerve cells in the nose, resulting in signals being sent to the brain through the trigeminal nerve network. The efferent pathways activate nasal glands, facial muscles, and respiratory muscles, resulting in a powerful release of air (the velocity of air discharge can reach up to 100 metres per second). In addition, other protective reflexes such as tearing and closing of the eyes may also occur in order to protect the nose and eyes from irritants1
The Source of Your Cold Symptoms
Cold viruses attack the upper respiratory tract, cold symptoms
are not triggered by the viruses themselves, but by the defensive reaction of the body's immune system, as the body deploys immune cells and antibodies to destroy the invading virus1
- Your runny nose might be due to your body trying to quickly move fluids containing antiviral particles to the site of infection, while flushing away the virus and damaged respiratory tract cells.5
- Your stuffy nose might be a result of inflammation caused by the release of immune system messenger proteins called bradykinins.1
- Your scratchy throat might be due to localised inflammation that’s also caused by these immune system messenger proteins.1
* Prof. Ron Eccles serves as a paid consultant to Procter & Gamble and does not endorse Vicks or any other brands.[REFERENCES]
1. Eccles, R. (2005) Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 5: pp. 718-725.
2. Muether, P.S. et al. (2001) Variant Effect of First- and Second-Generation Antihistamines as Clues to Their Mechanism of Action on the Sneeze Reflex in the Common Cold. Clinical Infectious Diseases. pp 33
3. King, et al. (1985) Clearance of mucus by simulated cough. Journal of Applied Physiology. 58(6): pp. 1776-1782.
4. Quraishi, M. S. (1998) The rheology of nasal mucus: A review. Clinical Otolaryngology. 23: pp. 403-413.
5. Cate, T.R., Rossen, R.D., Douglas, R.G., Butler, W.T., Couch, R.B. (1966) The Role of Nasal Secretion and Serum Antibody in the Rhinovirus Common Cold. American Journal of Epidemiology. 84(2).
6. The World Health Organization (March 2003). Influenza overview: Fact Sheet no.211.