Barring a superhuman immune system, you’ve probably experienced a cold. From coughing and wheezing, to a fever, and headaches. They can also be accompanied by muscle aches in about half of cases. Maybe you’re having a pleasant day, strolling merrily down the street, humming, and whistling like you’re in a 60s movie. Then a sudden bout of sneezing hits you, and you splatter yourself savagely across someone’s face. The inconvenience of a cold is not to be underestimated.

Colds are not to be confused with flu, I know some of you might look on in shock at this revelation, but they aren’t in fact the same thing. Colds are milder than flu, lasting days in comparison to weeks. They typically begin with a sore throat followed by the runny nose, and congestion, mild fevers can accompany it, but not too often and nowhere near the level of flu. Flu’s hit you more sudden, with stronger fever, aching bones, and joints, as well as all the cold symptoms.

Colds are a viral infection, this means that it’s caused by a virus, as opposed to a bacteria. Viruses are smaller than bacteria, and require a living host. When a virus invades your body, it invades the cells in your body, and forces them to replicate creating more viruses. Viruses consist of a nucleic acid molecule coated in protein containing either DNA or RNA. The best way to visualize it is as a code that constantly tries to replicate itself. The problem for you is the conditions for replication exist inside your body, or any living organism for that matter, depending on the virus. They are the most abundant biological entity on earth, with almost every ecosystem containing viruses. There are over 200 different viruses that cause colds. It is literally the most cause of infectious diseases in human beings. The average adult gets it 2-4 times per year. They aren’t all bad however, friendly viruses also exists, yes, seriously.

Colds are viruses that primarily affect your upper respiratory tract, which is why you’ll be horse, have your nose spew like the Niagara falls, and feel an uncontrollable tickle running down your throat. Some of the symptoms you commonly associate with the common cold are actually a response of the immune system, and not the virus itself. Fevers for example have been shown to increase your T-cell production, which helps fight viruses. They also help prevent viruses from replicating. Uncomfortable as it may be, you might want to thank your body for heating you up to a furnace.

Having a cold at the wrong time can cause you to miss crucial life events, the birth of your child, your kid’s graduations, the end of the universe. The possibilities are endless, which is why we’ll need to further delve into how this virus spreads, and what we can do to avoid it. After all you wouldn’t want to miss the end of the universe would you?


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