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What is common cold?

Colds are minor infections of the nose and throat caused by more than 200 different viruses. Rhinovirus is the most common cause, accounting for 10 to 40 percent of colds. Other common cold viruses include coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

How do we catch a cold?

Cold viruses are very contagious — it’s easy to catch them from other people. When someone has a cold, there is a lot of the cold-causing virus in their nose and throat. If the person coughs or sneezes, they can spray the virus into the air and infect other people directly. If the person with the cold coughs or sneezes on objects, or on their hands, those things can carry the virus too. Cold viruses can live for many hours on objects like toys, door handles, telephones, pens, tissues and more. If a healthy person picks up an object covered with cold germs, then touches their nose, mouth or eyes, they can catch the virus.

Cold viruses are around all year long, but we seem to get more colds in the winter. This is because we spend more time indoors in the winter, so we’re in closer proximity to other people and to their germs.

If you are tired, in poor physical condition, exposed to some air pollutants or have a chronic lung disease like asthma or COPD, you may get colds easier.

Symptoms

Between one and three days after a cold virus enters the body, symptoms start developing, such as:

  • A runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Weakened senses of taste and smell
  • Scratchy throat
  • A cough

Infants and young children are more likely than adults and teens to develop a fever.

A cold may last for about one week, but some colds last longer, especially in children, the elderly and those in poor health.

Symptoms of the flu are similar to the common cold, but they last longer and tend to be worse.

Treatment

Symptom Relief

Over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief of symptoms and should be used as soon as you feel a cold coming on

Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may be used to relieve aches and pains

Congestion, cough and nasal discharge may be treated with a decongestant, antihistamine or a combination of the two.

Treatment

REMEMBER to follow dosage instructions on all product labels and know what is in the medication you are taking. Be sure to discuss all medication choices with a healthcare provider.

There are no antiviral medications available for treating the common cold. Antibiotics are not useful for treating a cold, and should only be taken to treat bacterial complications that arise from it. If you are concerned you have a bacterial complication, discuss it with your healthcare provider.

There are no antiviral medications available for treating the common cold. Antibiotics are not useful for treating a cold, and should only be taken to treat bacterial complications that arise from it. If you are concerned you have a bacterial complication, discuss it with your healthcare provider.

Prevention

Colds are extremely difficult to prevent entirely. The following suggestions may help:

  • Avoid close contact with people who have a cold, especially during the first few days when they are most likely to spread the infection.
  • Wash hands after touching someone who has a cold, after touching an object they have touched, and after blowing your nose. If a child has a cold, wash his or her toys after play.
  • Keep fingers away from your nose and eyes to avoid infecting yourself with cold virus particles you may have been picked up.

Do not inflict your cold on others! Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue away and wash hands. Also, stay away from people who are most vulnerable, including anyone who has asthma or another chronic lung disease, or at least tries to limit close contact.

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