You wake up in a cranky mood. Your head hurts. You don't have the energy to even
get out of bed. And you can't breathe out of your nose. What's wrong? You may have
What Is a Cold?
A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory system. This just means it can
affect the nose, throat, and
sinuses. A cold virus gets inside your body and makes you sick. The rhinovirus
(say: rye-no-VYE-rus) is the most common cold virus, but more than 200 viruses can
cause colds. Because there are so many, there isn't a vaccination, or shot, to prevent
you from getting colds.
Fortunately, your body already has the best cold cure — your immune
system. The immune system defends your body against illness. White blood cells
are the immune system's main warriors. They're your own private army working to help
you feel better. Take that, cold viruses!
How Do Kids Catch Colds?
Mucus (say: MYOO-kus) is wet, slimy stuff inside the nose, mouth,
and throat. When someone sneezes or coughs, mucus drops float in the air. Breathing
in these droplets can spread a cold from one person to another.
You also can catch a cold if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after handling
something with cold viruses on it. Video games, the doors at the mall, and your school
desk are all hot spots for viruses. So be sure to wash
your hands regularly.
You sneeze because your
nerves detect the irritation in your nose and get the lungs to push a blast of air
out through your nose and mouth. A sneeze can travel at more than 100 miles (161 kilometers)
an hour — faster than a car travels on the road, unless you're at a racetrack!
What Are the Signs of a Cold?
Symptoms (say: SIMP-tumz) are signs or clues that tell doctors
you're sick. Once you've been in contact with a cold virus, it takes 2 to 3 days for
cold symptoms to begin. You may have some of these symptoms with a cold:
congestion (when your nose is stuffy and it's hard to breathe)
How Can I Feel Better?
Having a cold is the #1 reason kids visit
the doctor and stay home from school. Kids can get six to 10 colds per year with
each cold lasting an average of 7 to 14 days.
Here are some feel-better tips if you get a cold:
Bring on the heat. Hot drinks soothe coughs and sore throats
while also clearing mucus. So eat (or drink) your chicken soup! Get steamed
up. A steamy shower helps stuffy or irritated noses. Or run a humidifier
(a small, quiet machine that sprays fine cool mist in the air) to relieve your scratchy
throat and stuffy nose. Humidifiers make room air moist, which loosens mucus.
Practice healthy habits. Your immune system will be ready to
fight colds if you eat a balanced
diet, get plenty of sleep,
and keep your body fit through regular exercise.
Blow your horn. Blowing your nose is the best way to get rid
Rest. Take a nap or go to bed a little earlier for a few nights.
De-stress. Kids who are stressed
out feel worse when they have colds. Relax and use the time to read, listen to
music, or watch a movie. In other words, chill out and you might prevent a cold!