Common cold simply know as a cold, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that primarily affects the nose and throat. It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold. So, a runny nose, scratchy throat, and nonstop sneezing might be signs that you are infected.


What is it?

It’s a disease caused by a very small cell, called a virus. More than 200 types lead to your misery, but the most common one is the rhinovirus, which is thought to bee responsible for at least 50% of colds.

Other viruses that can cause colds include: coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and parainfluenza.


Children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, but healthy adults can also expect to have two to three colds every year.

Most recover form a common cold in a week or within 10 days. Symptoms might last longer in people who smoke but if they do not improve, sick medical attention.


How does it start?

Common cold can be caught from another person who is infected with the virus. This can happen in different ways, either by direct physical contact with someone who has a cold, or by touching a contaminated surface-like a keyboard, doorknob or utensils- and then touching your nose or mouth. It can also caught from infected droplets in the air released by a sneeze or a cough.

When a cold begins your body’s immune system sends out white blood cells to attack the invader. When that occurs, the initial attach fails and your body sends in more fighting cells which leaves you tired and vulnerable.


Common cold symptoms


The first cold symptoms are usually a tickle in the throat, runny nose, and sneezing. The initial discharge from the nose is clear and thin. Later, it may change to thick yellow or greenish discharge. Most adults do not develop a fever when they catch a cold.

Other symptoms of a cold may include coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, headache, muscle ache, chills, sore throat, hoarseness, fatigues, watery eyes, dull hearing, and lack of appetite. The cough that accompanies a cold is usually intermittent and dry.

Most people begin to feel better 4-5 days after their cold symptoms become noticeable. All symptoms are generally gone within 10 days, except for a dry cough that may linger for up to three weeks.


Children have about 5-7 colds per year, and the major reason behind that is because they spend time at school where they’re in close contact with other kids most of the day. Also, kids aren’t as conscientious about sneezing protection or frequent hand washing. And their young immune systems aren’t yet strong enough to fight off colds.

Young children may develop a low grade fever when having a cold.


In general, the common cold can be contagious anywhere from1-2 days before the symptoms begin up until the symptoms have completely resolved. However, the common cold is typically most contagious during the first 2-3 days of illness.


Risk factors


The risk factors are many and they can increase the chances of acquiring the cold,including the following:

. Age: infants and children are at a greater risk because of their young immune system cannot yet fight many viruses.

. Seasonal variation: individuals acquire more easily the common cold during the fall,winter, or during the rainy season(in warmer climates). This is believe to occur because of the close proximity to one another people tend to in stay during those period.

. Weakened immune system: individuals with a poorly functioning immune system are more likely to develop the common cold. Also, people with excessive fatigue or emotional distress may be more susceptible to catching the common cold.  


Common cold vs flu


Many people have a hard time differentiating the two or fail to recognize whether they are having a cold or a flu. As you can see from the table below the some signs and symptoms are similar but differ in intensity and time.

Symptoms of common cold appear gradually whereas those of flu appear in 3-6 hours.


When to see a doctor?


For adults- seek medical attention if you have:

- fever greater than 38.5C

- a fever lasting or recurring after a fever-free period

- shortness of breath

- wheezing

- severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain


For children- you should seek medical attention if your child has any of the following:

- fever of 38C in newborns up to 12 weeks

- rising fever or fever lasting more than 2 days in a child of any age

- symptoms that worsen or fail to improve

- severe symptoms, such as headache or cough

- wheezing

- ear pain

- extreme fussiness

- unusual drowsiness

- lack of appetite


Treatment and remedies

There’s no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are not useful against cold viruses and shouldn’t be used unless there is a bacterial infection. Treatment is directed at relieving signs and symptoms.

Home treatment include includes getting rest,drinking plenty of fluids, and gargling with warm saltwater might soothe the sore throat. In older children and adults, common over-the-counter drugs may help relieve the symptoms, though they will not prevent or shorten the duration of the common cold.

Commonly used medications include:

. Pain relievers for fever, sore throat and headache.

. Decongestant nasal sprays

. Cough suppressants

. Antihistamines


Common alternative treatments to prevent or treat the common cold, such as vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, and other herbal remedies, have had mixed results in studies evaluating their effectiveness.

Therefore, it is strongly advised that you discuss with your doctor for treatment options if your cold needs drug treatment.


Complications of common cold


There are complications that may arise from the common cold. The complications include the development of a bacterial middle ear infection or bacterial sinusitis. Common cold can sometimes trigger an exacerbation of asthma and COPD leading to shortness of breath and increased wheezing.

Pneumonia can sometimes develop as a secondary infection in individuals with the common cold, though it is uncommon.


Seek professional health care assistance if any of these complications are suspected



There’s no vaccine for the common cold, but there are useful daily precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses such as:

. Hand washing with soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

. Disinfection of kitchen and bathroom countertops, especially when there is someone with a cold in the house

. Use of tissues when sneezing or coughing and discard them right away. Wash your hands afterwards.

. Do not share drinking glasses or utensils with others, especially when you or someone else have a cold


This article only serves as a reference. Kindly refer to your primary care provider for complete consultation and treatment. 


For more details please send email to:


ADD396 Hongbaoshi Rd, Changning District, Shanghai, China