Getting sick after the summer

These last few weeks I’ve seen a number of people calling in with a cold and it seems to be spreading rapidly through the UAE, I’d guess that pretty much everyone has had a cold at some point. Without a doubt, the common cold is the most well known upper respiratory tract infection or URTI for short. Your upper respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi, basically everything above your lungs.

The most common cause of a cold

The most common cause of a cold or medically termed, an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI), is a virus. A virus enters the body, usually through the mouth or nose, or a person may transmit it through touch, or by sneezing and coughing.

Any place where people gather in an enclosed space, such as a classroom, office, or home, can be a high-risk area for the spread of URTIs. As we all return from our holidays and children go back to school we are exposed to more viruses from all over the world and so the number of patients reporting URTI symptoms has increased over the last 4 weeks.


How to know if you have a cold

The most common symptoms of a cold or an URTI include:
  • Coughing
  • Discomfort in the nasal passages
  • Mild fever, which is more common in children
  • Excess mucus
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain or pressure behind the face
  • A runny nose
  • A scratchy or sore throat
  • Sneezing
Less common symptoms can include:
  • Bad breath
  • Body aches
  • Headache hyposmia, or the loss of sense of smell
  • Itchy eyes


How to treat a cold

Antibiotics are not required in the majority of patients with viral URTIs, as they will not help with viral infections and will often give you an upset stomach, diarrhoea and/or vomiting. If you are concerned about you or your child give us a call on the Health at Hand app and we can discuss whether you need them.

Doctors will often recommend cold remedies, which will not cure a cold, but they might help ease your symptoms and keep you from feeling so miserable.

  • Stay hydrated. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which can make dehydration worse.
  • Rest. Your body needs to heal.
  • Soothe a sore throat. A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Children younger than 6 years are unlikely to be able to gargle properly. You can also try ice chips, sore throat sprays or lozenges. Do not give lozenges to children under the age of 6.
  • Combat stuffiness. Saline nasal drops and sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion.
  • Blow Your Nose. It’s better than sniffling mucus back into your head. Make sure you use a tissue and dispose of it immediately (don’t forget to wash your hands after!)
  • Drink Hot Liquids. They relieve your congestion and soothe the inflamed lining of your nose and throat.
  • Put Hot Packs on Your Sinuses. Take a damp washcloth & heat it for 30 seconds in a microwave. Test the temperature first to make sure it’s right for you.
  • Relieve pain by trying cough and cold medictions. For children 6 months or younger, give only paracetamol (Adol, Panadol). For children older than 6 months, give either paracetamol or ibuprofen. Adults can take paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin. For adults and children older than age 5, decongestants and antihistamines might offer some relief from your symptoms.
  • Add moisture to the air. A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can add moisture to your home, which might help loosen congestion. Change the water daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Preventing a cold or preventing spreading it if you are sick is the best way to stay healthy. Wash your hands regularly and use alcohol based hand sanitisers. Avoid sick people as much as possible and if you are sick, stay home so you do not spread it to your family, friends and colleagues. Make sure you cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that maybe contaminated with germs like your phone and door handles. The best thing you can do is look after your general health, eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of rest. If you are a smoker, stopping smoking can hugely improve your ability to fight off infections and generally make you feel a lot better.

Dr Ruhil Badiani

Family Medicine Consultant

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, or if you are suffering from a cold ask your Health at Hand doctor for advice through our app that can be easily downloaded from the App Store