The common cold; an enemy of productivity

The common cold; an enemy of productivity

You are not coughing, sneezing and churning out clear watery fluid from your nostrils because you stayed out late or spent time outdoors bare-chested. You are likely to have inhaled a good dose of viruses and may have what we commonly refer to as the COMMON COLD.

These days COVID-19 has changed the landscape and one cannot safely bet on having a common cold until you have taken a test to check for this novel corona virus. Even a negative test result may not be the end of the story BUT that is a topic for another day.

Most of us may recognise the symptoms of a common cold and definitely everyone reading this piece must have been a victim at one time or the other. The symptoms may be mild but trust me sometimes you get the impression the gates of heaven or hell were just open wide to receive you.

It may normally last one to two weeks and is an extremely common reason for a visit to a health facility all around the world. Your guess is as good as mine it also leads to many days off work or school. Many doctors are likely to give someone with a common cold days off from work because the person is a health “hazard” Can you imagine spending hours in a room with someone coughing and sneezing?

You may soon catch the common cold too and then there will be more people underperforming and that means more cedis down the drain for the business. It is even more important now to stay home when you have one or more of the tell-tale signs below since you will be mentally torturing your colleagues as they imagine you may be entertaining COVID-19 rent-free.


  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery Eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itching throat
  • General body pains
  • Mild Fatigue
  • Low grade fever

Allergies may often mimic the common cold but there are a few obvious differences. Note that the two may occur at the same time.

  • Allergies are NEVER associated with a fever and the victim will not have generalised aches and pains
  • All the other features above could occur in both
  • Unlike the common cold allergies are not caused by a virus
  • One will normally fight the common cold with REST, PAIN RELIEVERS and a myriad of “cold remedies” whereas allergies require an antihistamine to offer relief.

In a malaria endemic area like ours, the common cold can mimic MALARIA an old foe. Who would not suspect malaria when after several nights of unfriendly interaction with mosquitoes one begins to experience a fever, general aches and pains as well as a general sense of not feeling well. Many times we tend to battle the common cold with an antimalarial medication leading to drug resistance and unnecessary stress on our liver. When in doubt do see a professional.


The nursery school is every mother’s nightmare especially the first few years. Since the children are in close contact with one another, there is a lot of “sharing” of viruses many of which cause the common cold. Consider the fact that over a 100 viruses may cause the common cold and you will understand why your little one appears to be having a long lasting acquaintance with the common cold.

Beware lest you keep giving antibiotics to your child. Trust your doctor when he recommends supportive care. Sometimes your child’s cold may be complicated by infections such as an ear infection so monitor closely.


Most adults will not get the common cold as often as their little angels but women in their 20s to 40s are noted to have relatively frequent attacks probably because they spend more time with their toddlers.

In general any condition that keeps more people indoors or in an enclosed area for long periods of time is a remedy for spreading the common cold as the viruses are spread as we cough or talk. It can also be spread through contact such as shaking hands with someone who has cold and also sharing items that may include telephone, utensils and toys. After such contact one can easily catch a cold when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth (just as occurs in COVID). Good old washing of hands with soap and water pops up again.


Though most bouts of the common cold may be harmless, occasionally we may be at risk of complications (commoner in children) especially when the cold persists for a long time:

  • Ear Infection
  • Infection of the sinuses
  • Wheezing may be precipitated in an asthmatic
  • Bacterial infection of the throat and even pneumonia


It is important to see a doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Temperature above 39.4 degrees Celsius in an adult or older child
  • A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius may be the trigger for a baby less than two months old
  • Persistent vomiting.
  • Refusal to eat and drink, which may lead to dehydration.
  • Excessive sleepiness

Note that in 2021, it is important to seek professional medical care whenever you have any symptoms that you think could be the common cold. Do Not wait for complications to set in or only to find out later you rather have COVID-19.


Your best bet is prevention.

  • Eating a healthy meal with a lot of fruits and vegetables will boost your immunity and help you ward off the cold
  • Mild to moderate  exercising (regular) will also increase your immunity
  • Washing your hands with soap and water after interacting with people
  • Patronise crowded areas ONLY when necessary

Once you have the common cold then it’s time to switch to plan B. There is currently no cure for the common cold but you may be able to make life more comfortable by adopting the following:

  • Drink lot of fluid – water, juice. This will replace fluid lost and prevent dehydration
    • Grab chicken soup – the jury is out and this is no longer an old wives tale. This soup actually reduces inflammation associated with the cold and also speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, relieving congestion and reducing the time viruses stay in contact with the nasal lining
  • Get some rest
  • Keep your room warm
  • Saline drops may come in handy to relieve the nasal stuffiness.
  • You may use some pain relievers but remember they have side effects

This cold may be common but it can definitely make your life miserable and end up keeping you away from work and maybe poorer.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic/Mobissel

Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.

 Thought for the week –“STIGMATISATION has no place in fighting this pandemic. It will cause people to hide and not disclose their status, seek medical care late and reduce all the benefits of protocols. We should all be comfortable enough to tell our close contacts when we test positive for COVID-19 so that the proper measures are taken. This is extremely important if we have to win this fight.”- Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel


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