Viral infection of the upper and sometimes the lower respiratory tract. Symptoms, which are relatively mild, include sneezing, fatigue, sore throat, and stuffy or runny nose (but not fever); they usually last only a few days. About 200 different strains of virus can produce colds; they are spread by direct or indirect contact. The cold is the most common of all illnesses; the average person gets several every year. Incidence peaks in the fall. Treatment involves rest, adequate fluid intake, and over-the-counter remedies for the symptoms. Antibiotics do not combat the virus but may be given if secondary infections develop.
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Malaise is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness, an "out of sorts" feeling, often the first indication of an infection or other disease. Malaise is often defined in medicinal research as a "general feeling of being unwell". This usage may have originated in folk medicine, but it is adopted from the French word meaning "discomfort," "feeling faint," "feeling sick."
The "winter malaise" is another rendition of the term. This is described as feeling run down, depleted, fatigued, "out of sorts", depressed, or a combination of all the aforementioned symptoms. Unlike the colloquial term, the winter malaise is generally not associated with the oncoming of any particular illness. It is the culmination of the body adjusting to cold winter conditions and a possible depressing atmosphere due to either being forced inside due to the cold, or forced into a mundane daily routine because of the winter conditions. It is important to understand the difference between a winter malaise and depression in order to be treated properly for any of the symptoms that are exhibited.
The term is also often used figuratively in such contexts as "economic malaise."
Generally speaking, the malaise expresses that "something is wrong," like a general warning light, but only a medical examination can determine the cause.
The first response is:
Some signs and symptoms have a particular importance for the assessment of the situation and indicate a possible medical emergency:
The following step depends on the organization of the emergency medical assistance. Some countries provide free medical advice by phone (e.g., SAMU in France): it is then useful to call this service to know what to do. Otherwise, it is useful to contact the usual general practitioner of the person, to get his or her advice, or any medical or paramedical professional at least. The bystander who calls must mention all the elements collected so far. When it is not possible to contact the individual's primary-care physician, it is then necessary to assess the situation in order to decide whether it is necessary to call an ambulance.
Some specific situations require specific actions:
An important point is to watch the person until he or she recovers or the arrival of the ambulance, for the situation is likely to worsen.
Oxygen first aid is recommended for any sign of severity, or in any doubt. Although oxygen is considered as a medication in some countries, it is harmless (humans normally breathe 21% oxygen in a mix of gasses known collectively as air, see Earth's atmosphere). There is controversy about patients suffering chronic respiratory insufficiency, and the so-called "paradoxical effect" of oxygen: the patient's body is used with oxygen lack and a massive saturation can lead alter the spontaneous breathing. However:
Even when it is not necessary, the oxygen breathing can have a placebo effect; on the contrary, the mask can cause a stress and be detrimental, it is thus necessary to explain the acts that are performed and to accept if the patient refuses.
Any other action should be performed only after a contact (by radio or by phone) with a medical authority (medical regulation).
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