Learn About Ailments | Common cold

Common cold

The common cold is an infection in the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus. A common cold can affect the sinuses, nose, throat, larynx and airways of the lungs. Common cold viruses are contagious and typically passed on by hand contact with an infected person or object. Symptoms of the common cold include blocked nose, sore throat, headaches, coughing and sneezing and usually last 3-10 days. There is no cure for the common cold due to different strains of the virus.
Common cold

In This Article
Watch the common cold video Causes of common cold
Symptoms of common cold Diagnosis of common cold
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Did you know?
  • Over 200 known viruses cause the common cold but new cold viruses develop every day
  • Children suffer an average of 6-10 colds every year
  • Adults suffer 2-4 common colds per year
  • Women are more vulnerable to colds
  • Cold germs can survive for thee hours on hard surfaces (such as door handles)

The common cold is caused by viruses the most common of which belong to either the rhinovirus group or the coronavirus group. One person can suffer one cold after another because of different viruses.

A cold virus attacks the lining of the nose and throat causing inflammation. As the linings become inflamed, more mucus is produced resulting in a runny nose and sneezing.

A cold virus can be spread through tiny droplets of fluid becoming airborne when sneezing, coughing or speaking. If the droplets are breathed in by another person they may become infected with the virus.

Colds can also be spread by direct contact with a person or a surface where the virus is present. Touching your nose or eyes when having a cold and then touching another person (for example in a handshake) can pass the virus to that person. If they then touch their eyes, nose or mouth the virus may enter their system causing an infection.

If you have a cold and then touch a surface which others are likely to touch as well (such as a door handle or telephone receiver) the virus can be passed along if that person touches the surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Common cold symptoms usually develop within 48 hours of infection and tend to be at their worst in the second and third day. Colds usually last 4-7 days while some may last for up to two weeks.

A cold is very different to the flu (influenza) although many people fail to distinguish the two. The viruses that cause the common cold differ to those that cause the flu. Cold symptoms tend to appear over the course of two days whereas flu symptoms are more abrupt and appear within hours.

The common symptoms of a cold are:
  • Sore throat (sometimes painful when swallowing)
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose (clear fluid during the first few days which eventually thickens to a yellow/green colour)
  • Mild fever
  • Mild earache
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Cough
A cold usually causes the nasal passages to become blocked. This is not due to a build up of mucus but the inflammation of the nasal lining. Many people blow their nose to try and clear this blockage but this will only make the inflammation worse and therefore make the nose blocked even more. The natural flow of mucus is up through the nose and down into the throat. If you have a cold try to avoid blowing your nose too much.

A diagnosis is not necessary for the common cold but you should visit your GP if other infections begin to develop as a result.

  • Stuffy
  • Sneeze
  • Cough
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Remedy
  • Nasal
  • Bronchial
  • Decongestant

Therapies to consider
Chinese Herbal Medicine Herbal Medicine Homeopathy


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