The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold.

Common symptoms of the cold include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, slight body discomfort, mild headache, sneezing, and fever.

Common cold

While many people confuse the common cold with the flu (influenza), they are not the same. Influenza is generally more severe, often with a fever and body aches, and can be quite serious for certain groups such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.

A cold typically lasts for around a week, and it’s important to rest, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious food to quickly recover. There is currently no cure for the common cold, but its symptoms can be treated.

Causes of Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection primarily affects your nose and throat. It’s usually harmless and symptoms improve in about a week. There are over 200 viruses that can cause cold symptoms, the most common ones are:

1. Rhinoviruses: These are the most frequent cause of common colds. Rhinoviruses may also cause some sore throats, ear infections, and infections of the sinuses.

2. Human metapneumovirus: This virus often contributes to upper and lower respiratory infections in adults and children.

3. Coronaviruses: There are many types of coronaviruses, with some leading to the common cold.

4. Respiratory syncytial virus: This can lead to serious infections such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis in children under age 2 and in older adults.

Common cold viruses are contagious. They can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. They can also be picked up from surfaces that an infected person has touched and then transferred to your mouth, nose or eyes. Your risk of getting a cold can increase if you’re exposed to the virus and your immune system is weakened by stress, poor sleep, or poor nutrition.

Risk Factors of Common cold

The risk factors of the common cold include:

1. Age: Children younger than 6 are at greatest risk of colds, especially if they spend time in child-care settings.

2. Weakened Immune System: Having a chronic illness or otherwise weakened immune system increases the risk.

3. Time of the year: Both children and adults are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter, but one can get a cold anytime.

4. Smoking: You’re more likely to catch a cold and to have more severe colds if you’re exposed to cigarette smoke.

5. Exposure: Being in close contact with others who have a cold increases the chances of contracting the virus.

6. Lack of Sleep: Lack of sleep could also be a risk factor as it could affect the immune system’s functionality.

It’s important to note that while these factors can increase your risk for catching a common cold, they do not guarantee that you’ll get a cold. Good hygiene practices like washing your hands often can help you avoid catching a cold virus.

Signs and Symptoms of Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. The most common signs and symptoms of the common cold include:

1. Runny or stuffy nose: This is usually the first sign of a cold. It’s caused by an increase in mucus production in your nose and sinuses.

2. Sneezing: This happens as your body tries to clear out the germs and irritants in your nose.

3. Sore throat: This is often a result of a postnasal drip – when excess mucus from your nose drips down the back of your throat.

4. Cough: A cough can also result from postnasal drip or from irritation in your throat or lungs.

5. Mild headache: Headaches can sometimes accompany a cold, often due to sinus pressure.

6. Fatigue: You may feel especially tired or rundown while your body fights off the infection.

7. Mild fever: While less common, a fever of 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit might occur with a common cold.

8. Feeling generally unwell: You might feel generally unwell or “blah” when you have a cold.

Everyone’s experience with the common cold can be slightly different, and symptoms can vary in intensity. If symptoms are severe, persist for more than a week, or you have a high fever, you should seek medical attention.

Diagnosis Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, mainly affecting the nose, throat, sinuses, and larynx. There are over 200 viruses that could cause a common cold, but the most common one is rhinovirus.

Symptoms of a common cold include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, mild headache, tiredness, and sore throat. These symptoms typically start 1 to 3 days after exposure to a cold-causing virus and usually last for 7 to 10 days.

Diagnosing a common cold is typically based on the symptoms, particularly if symptoms occur in the winter or during a known outbreak of a specific respiratory virus. Laboratory tests are generally not needed unless there are concerns about a more serious infection.

The common cold is different from the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus and usually presents with more severe symptoms including fever, body ache, and severe fatigue.

While there’s no cure for a common cold, rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications can help manage symptoms. Preventive measures, such as practicing good hygiene and boosting immunity, are the best defense against a common cold.

Treatment of Common cold

Common cold is a viral infection mainly affecting the nose and throat. Here’s a common course of treatment:

1. Rest and Hydration: Adequate rest helps the body heal naturally and staying hydrated soothes the throat and prevents dehydration caused by fever.

2. Over-the-counter (OTC) medication: OTC cold remedies may help improve symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, body aches, and cough. These could include pain relievers, decongestants, expectorants, or antihistamines.

3. Nasal sprays: Saline nasal sprays can help moisten the nasal passages, relieving congestion. There are also decongestant sprays, but these should not be used for more than a few days as they can cause rebound congestion.

4. Humidity: A humidifier can keep the throat and nasal passages moist and relieve congestion.

5. Herbal Remedies: Certain herbs like echinacea, garlic, and vitamin C are believed to alleviate the common cold symptoms.

6. Use of lozenges: Sucking on lozenges or hard candy can relieve a sore throat.

7. Warm Liquids: Drinking warm liquids like herbal tea, lemon water, or chicken soup can be soothing and relieve congestion.

Remember, antibiotics don’t work on viruses, so won’t be effective against a common cold. If symptoms persist for more than a week or are severe (high fever, severe sore throat, chest pain etc.), it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider.

Always consult with a healthcare provider or a pharmacist before starting any treatment regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions, or if the patient is a child, an older adult, or pregnant.

Medications commonly used for Common cold

Common colds are typically caused by viruses, so there’s no specific cure for them. Most treatments for cold symptoms are aimed at relief and include over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

1. Decongestants: The active ingredients, like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, help to reduce swelling in the nasal passages. Common brands include Sudafed, Afrin, and Actifed.

2. Cough suppressants: Dextromethorphan is the most common active ingredient in OTC cough medicines (like Robitussin and Delsym) used to suppress the cough reflex.

3. Expectorants: Guaifenesin, found in products like Mucinex, help thin mucus and make coughs more productive.

4. Antihistamines: Medications like Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Claritin can help withrunny noses and sneezing as they block the effects of histamine, a chemical your body releases during an allergic reaction.

5. Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can reduce fever and relieve any aches and pain.

6. Combination cold remedies: Some cold medicines combine multiple ingredients, like a decongestant, a cough suppressant, and a pain reliever in one pill (for example, NyQuil or DayQuil).

Remember, it’s always important to dose appropriately, particularly with combination medicines, as they may contain the same ingredient as another medication you are taking. Also, OTC cold medications may not be suitable for young children, pregnant women, elderly people, or individuals with certain health conditions. Consult a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about which medication is best for you. Always call a healthcare provider if symptoms worsen or persist for more than a week.

Prevention of Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat. It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. While a cure doesn’t exist for the common cold, several measures can be taken to prevent its occurrence.

1. Wash your hands: This is the most effective method for preventing common colds. Regularly wash your hands with soapy water, especially after using the restroom, coming home from outside, or after contact with a person who has a cold.

2. Avoid touching your face: The common cold can be caught by touching a surface contaminated with the common cold viruses and then touching your face.

3. Keep your distance: Try to stay away from people who are sick as the common cold can easily be passed on through interpersonal contact.

4. Maintain a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin C and antioxidants can boost your immune system and fight off infections faster.

5. Exercise regularly: Exercise is known to boost the immune system and make you less susceptible to colds and other illnesses.

6. Hydrate: Drink plenty of fluids like water, clear broths, or warm lemon water with honey to stay hydrated.

7. Sleep well: Get a proper sleep as a lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to getting sick.

8. Vaccines: Vaccines don’t exist for common colds but getting your annual flu vaccine can prevent upper respiratory infections and complications related to the flu.

9. Keep your surroundings clean: Clean your hands and disinfect common surfaces and objects to avoid coming in contact with cold viruses.

10. Stop smoking: Smoking can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds.

Remember, while these tips may reduce your risk, they can’t eliminate it. Everyone’s immune system is different and reacts to viruses differently.

FAQ’s about Common cold

Certainly, here are frequently asked questions (FAQs) and their responses about the common cold:

1. What is a common cold?
A common cold is a viral infection that affects your nose and throat.

2. What are the symptoms of common cold?
Symptoms of a common cold include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, mild headache, coughing, fatigue, body aches, and sometimes fever.

3. How is a common cold caused?
A common cold is typically caused by rhinoviruses. They can be contracted when you touch surfaces touched by an infected person or through the air when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes.

4. How long does a common cold last?
The common cold typically last 7 to 10 days. If the symptoms last for more than a week, it could be a sign of a more serious illness and one should see a doctor.

5. Is there an effective treatment for common cold?
There’s no cure for the common cold. However, the symptoms can be relieved through rest, hydration, and over-the-counter cold remedies.

6. Can common cold be prevented?
Yes, practicing good personal hygiene such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding close contact with sick people can help prevent the spread of cold-causing viruses.

7. Are antibiotics effective against common cold?
Since a cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics – which are designed to kill bacteria – are not effective.

8. At what point should you see a doctor regarding a common cold?
If symptoms last for more than a week, if the symptoms are severe or unusual, or if you have a high fever, severe headache, chest pain or other worrying symptoms, you should see a doctor.

9. Is the common cold contagious?
Yes, the common cold is highly contagious. You can get infected by inhaling the virus if you are sitting close to someone who sneezes, or by touching your nose, eyes or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by an infected person’s spit or nasal mucus.

10. Can you get a cold from cold weather?
Cold weather itself does not cause colds. However, people are more likely to stay indoors and be in close contact with each other during cold weather, which can increase the chance of spreading a cold.

Useful links

The Common Cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Here are a few useful links from journals related to the Common Cold:


Remember, medical information on the internet is generally intended for educational purposes and should never replace professional healthcare advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider for any questions or concerns about your medical conditions and treatments.

Complications of Common cold

The common cold usually causes symptoms like a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and body aches. However, if not properly managed, it can lead to a few complications, especially in people with weakened immune systems, very young children, and the elderly.

1. Sinusitis: This is a disease characterized by inflammation or infection of the sinuses, often as a secondary infection after a cold.

2. Secondary bacterial infection: A cold can lead to bacterial infections in your ears, sinuses, or lungs, leading to conditions like bacterial sinusitis, ear infection, or pneumonia.

3. Asthma: A common cold can trigger asthma attacks in people who already have the condition.

4. Bronchitis: In some cases, a cold virus can also cause bronchitis, an inflammation of the tubes that transport air to and from the lungs.

5. Lower respiratory tract infections: Although this is rare, some types of cold viruses can cause lower respiratory tract infections, like pneumonia and bronchitis, especially in people with weak immune systems.

Primary attention should go towards symptom relief during a cold. If symptoms worsen or persist beyond a week or ten days, immediate medical attention should be sought to prevent serious complications.

Home remedies of Common cold

Common colds are viral infections of the nose and throat. While there is no cure from medical science, certain home remedies can help to alleviate symptoms and aid your body in its recovery. Here are some home remedies you may try:

1. Stay Hydrated: Keeping your body hydrated helps to thin mucus and drain your nasal passages. You might prefer warm liquids to soothe any soreness in your throat.

2. Rest and Relaxation: Giving your body the chance to recuperate is fundamental. The more your body rests, the better it can fight the cold virus.

3. Eat healthy: Eating nutrient-filled foods can boost your immunity and help your body fight off the cold virus.

4. Consider Vitamin C: Whilst its effect on the common cold is not definitive, some studies suggest high doses may reduce the duration of a cold. Common sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, and broccoli.

5. Use of a humidifier: Humidifiers can keep your throat moist and relieve congestion.

6. Inhaling steam: Breathing in steam may help to ease congestion and discomfort in your nasal passages.

Common cold

7. Gargle with Warm Salt Water: This can soothe a sore throat and kill bacteria.

8. Use of a warm compress: Applying a warm towel or a hot pack to the face can relieve the discomfort from sinus pressure.

9. Raw Honey: A great remedy for soothing a sore throat and suppressing coughs. You can try mixing a teaspoon into a warm cup of herbal tea.

10. Ginger: This root has anti-inflammatory properties which can also help soothe a sore throat. Try steeping a couple pieces of ginger in a hot cup of water to make a tea.

Remember, these are home-remedies and not a definite cure. If symptoms persist or become more severe, please consult with a doctor.

Please note: this is general advice and may not include all common cold symptoms. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you’re feeling unwell.

Categorized in:

Infectious Diseases,

Last Update: December 29, 2023