Common Cold: Overview

The common cold refers to any number of viral infections of the nose and throat. Typical symptoms are all too well-known: cough, runny nose, blocked nose, fever, sore throat, and other symptoms. Fortunately, most cases of the common cold are harmless, but it is still prudent to watch for some dangerous complications. And some other more serious conditions, such as flu, can be mistaken for the common cold (read about: misdiagnosis of the common cold).

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Back to: « Common Cold

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Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Most people recover in 7-10 days or so. You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold by washing your hands often and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more.

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and body aches. Most people recover within about 7-10 days. However, people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as pneumonia.

Source: CDC Features1

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Sneezing, sore throat, a stuffy nose, coughing - everyone knows the symptoms of the common cold. It is probably the most common illness. In the course of a year, people in the United States suffer 1 billion colds.

You can get a cold by touching your eyes or nose after you touch surfaces with cold germs on them. You can also inhale the germs. Symptoms usually begin 2 or 3 days after infection and last 2 to 14 days. Washing your hands and staying away from people with colds will help you avoid colds.

There is no cure for the common cold. For relief, try

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking fluids
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Using cough drops or throat sprays
  • Taking over-the-counter pain or cold medicines

However, do not give aspirin to children. And do not give cough medicine to children under four.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Source: MedLinePlus (NIH)2

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Colds

If you or a family member has a cold, it means you have a virus that is affecting your head and chest, including your nose, throat, sinuses and ears.

Source: New Zealand Health3

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Colds

Learn about colds, including advice on self-care and what you can do to prevent spreading or catching them.

Source: New Zealand Health4

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Common cold

You can often treat a cold without seeing your GP. You should begin to feel better in about a week or two.

Source: NHS Choices UK5

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Respiratory viruses can infect any age group. Severe complications are often restricted to children and the elderly. These viruses are most commonly transmitted by airborne droplets or nasal secretions and can lead to a wide spectrum of illness. In the UK many of these viruses are seasonal in their activity and tend to circulate at higher levels during the winter months.

Source: GOV.UK6

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Common Cold: A catarrhal disorder of the upper respiratory tract, which may be viral or a mixed infection. It generally involves a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing.7

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Common cold: An upper respiratory tract disease which involves inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, eyes, and eustachian tubes with watery then purulent discharge. This is an acute contagious disease caused by rhinoviruses, human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, or metapneumovirus.8

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Common cold: An upper respiratory tract disease which involves inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, eyes, and eustachian tubes with watery then purulent discharge. This is an acute contagious disease caused by rhinoviruses, human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, or metapneumovirus.9

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References

  1. Source: CDC Features: cdc.gov/ features/ rhinoviruses/ 
  2. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): medlineplus.gov/ commoncold.html
  3. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ colds
  4. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses
  5. Source: NHS Choices UK: nhs.uk/ conditions/ common-cold/ 
  6. Source: GOV.UK: gov.uk/ guidance/ respiratory-viruses
  7. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  8. Source: Disease Ontology
  9. Source: Monarch Initiative

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.