Common cold

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at January 11, 2016
StartDiseasesCommon cold

The common cold is one of the most prevalent viral infections, affecting both children and adults, and spreading easily in public areas. While it can bring about a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, it is usually harmless, easily treatable, and has a high level of recovery.


Definition & Facts

The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract which includes the nose and throat. It is typically unaccompanied by high fever and symptoms usually clear within seven to ten days.

The common cold affects children more frequently than adults because children have not yet developed immunity towards the underlying viruses that cause the common cold. In addition, children spend much time in close proximity with other children who similarly lack resistance to the viruses. Children also tend to not have developed proper hygiene habits like covering one's mouth while coughing.

Symptoms & Complaints

Symptoms of the common cold include


Rhinoviruses are the most common kind of viruses that cause the common cold. Highly contagious, the common cold is transmitted through physical contact and water molecules in the air, from which it enters the body's mouth, eyes, or nose. Coughing and sneezing can transmit the virus as well as hand-to-hand contact with an infected person. Sharing or touching objects or surfaces that contain the virus can also spread the common cold.

Diagnosis & Tests

Because the common cold does not pose a serious threat to a person’s health and has a high recovery rate, it is not usually necessary to go in to the doctor for an official evaluation and diagnosis. If existing symptoms persist beyond seven to ten days or if they worsen, it may be appropriate to schedule a visit with the doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

While there is no vaccine or cure for the common cold, symptom relief includes a combination of rest and over-the-counter cold medicines. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or aspirin can help relieve pain and irritation caused by a common cold. Cough syrups can also help with throat pain and scratchiness. Nasal sprays and nasal decongestants can help relieve clogged or runny noses.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

To prevent the exchange of germs it is important to practice proper hygiene. Washing hands often, cleaning surfaces, and covering nasal and throat cavities when sneezing and coughing can reduce transmission of the common cold. Avoiding close contact with those who have the common cold can help prevent transmission, and if suffering from the common cold, it is advisable to stay home from work or school.