Common cold

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Know the basics

What is common cold?

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It can be caused by many types of viruses. The condition is relatively harmless, although the symptoms can be very uncomfortable.

How common is common cold?

This health condition is extremely common. Children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, but healthy adults can also expect to have two or three colds annually. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of common cold?

The symptoms of common cold include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose;
  • A sore throat;
  • Cough;
  • Sneezing;
  • Congestion;
  • Mild body aches or a headache;
  • Low-grade fever;
  • Feeling unwell (malaise).

The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in color during a common cold. Take note that does not indicate a bacterial infection.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

For adults:

  • Fever greater than 38.5oC;
  • Fever lasting five days or longer;
  • Fever recurrence after a fever-free period;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Wheezing;
  • A severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain;

For children:

  • Fever of 38oC in newborns up to 12 weeks;
  • Rising fever or fever lasting more than two days in a child of any age;
  • Symptoms that worsen or fail to improve;
  • Severe symptoms, such as a headache or a cough;
  • Wheezing;
  • Ear pain;
  • Extreme fussiness;
  • Unusual drowsiness;
  • Lack of appetite.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes common cold?

Many types of viruses can cause common cold. However, the majority of which are caused by rhinoviruses.

The common cold is a contagious condition. The virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. They present in air droplets and spread out when someone with coughs, sneezes or talks. In addition, the virus can spread via hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, you’re likely to catch a cold.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for common cold?

There are many risk factors for common cold, such as:

  • Age: children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, especially if they are in child-care settings.
  • Weakened immune system: having a weakened immune system due to reasons such as chronic diseases or other condition can increase your risk.
  • Time of year: both children and adults are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter, but note that you can catch a common cold at any times.
  • Smoking: you stand a higher chance to catch severe colds if you smoke.
  • Exposure: if you are surrounded by many people too often, you are more likely exposed to common cold viruses.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is common cold diagnosed?

Majority cases of common cold can be diagnosed by the signs and symptoms. However, if your doctor suspects you have a bacterial infection or other conditions, you might be required undergoing other tests to confirm your conditions.

How is common cold treated?

There is actually no cure for common cold. Treatment is to relieve signs and symptoms:

Pain relievers

For fever, sore throat and headache, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers. Use acetaminophen for the shortest time possible. Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Consider giving your child over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications designed for infants or children. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol, Infant’s Feverall, others) or ibuprofen (Pediatric Advil, Motrin Infant, others) to ease symptoms.

Decongestant nasal sprays

Adults can use decongestant drops or sprays for up to five days. Prolonged use can cause rebound symptoms. Children younger than six shouldn’t use decongestant drops or sprays.

Cough syrups

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend against giving OTC cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 4. There’s no good evidence that these remedies are beneficial and safe for children.

If you give cough or cold medicines to an older child, follow the label directions. Do not give your child two medicines with the same active ingredient, such as an antihistamine, decongestant or pain reliever. Too much of a single ingredient could lead to an accidental overdose. Talk to your doctor before attempting any of the medicines.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage common cold?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with common cold:

  • Wash your hands regularly to avoid spreading out of the viruses.
  • Eat healthy. Make sure your diet includes foods with lots of nutrients, like dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits. But make sure your meals include lean protein, good fats, and complex carbs to keep your immune system in top shape.
  • Stop smoking. Cigarettes decrease your body’s ability to fight off a cold.
  • Stop drinking. Heavy drinkers are more likely to get complications from a cold.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: October 2, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

You might also like