What is Common Cold?- Everything you should know

Exactly as its name suggests, the common cold is expected. Did you know that adults usually catch 2 to 3 colds every year? A virus causes the common cold, spreading through sneezing, coughing, or contact with infected surfaces. Although you may be familiar with the common cold, there are several things you should know about it: its symptoms, its risk factors, and, more importantly, how to protect yourself and prevent it from spreading to other people. Let’s get started.  

What is the common cold?

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract viral infection.  More than 200 viruses have been found to cause colds. However, rhinoviruses are the most widespread.

These viruses can quickly move from one person to another or from one surface to another. Many of these viruses can survive for hours or even days on surfaces.

What are the symptoms of the common cold?

Rarely do cold symptoms arise suddenly. Usually, it takes 1–3 days for the following symptoms to appear after exposure to a virus.

  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Runny noses
  • A sore throat or cough
  • Tiredness in general
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Body pains and chills
  • Low-grade fever of less than 102°F (38.9°C) with discomfort in the chest

The symptoms often last 7 to 10 days. Usually, symptoms peak around day 5 and then gradually disappear.

How long does a common cold last?

A common cold lasts 7 to 10 days and can extend up to 2 weeks. The level of your overall health will determine how long you experience symptoms.

It’s also necessary to consult a doctor if, after five days, your symptoms start to get worse. A bigger issue, such as the flu or strep throat, could be indicated by symptoms that persist or worsen over time. 

Is the common cold the same as the flu? 

The common cold and the flu may initially appear to be very similar.

However, different viruses bring about these two conditions, and you can tell the difference by the severity of your symptoms.

Rarely does the common cold result in further medical concerns or issues. However, the flu can result in complications like pneumonia, sepsis, and sinus and ear infections.

Knowing the fundamental difference between cold and flu symptoms will assist you in determining the best course of action for your health and whether a doctor visit is necessary. 

What are the risk factors?

The following circumstances may influence your risk of catching a cold:

Seasonal changes

 Although colds can strike at any time of year, they seem to occur more frequently in the fall and winter or during wet weather.

When it’s chilly and rainy outside, we spend more time indoors, which raises the likelihood that the virus will spread.


Colds are more common in kids under the age of six.  The risk is significantly higher if they are in a daycare or childcare facility with other children.


You’re more likely to come into contact with rhinoviruses if there are many people around, as in a crowded place.

Weakened immune system

You may be more prone to catching a cold virus if you have a serious medical condition or a weakened immune system.


Smokers are more likely to get a cold, and their colds are typically more severe.

Absence of sleep

Irregular or insufficient sleep weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to cold viruses.

Does the common cold require a diagnosis?

Usually, you don’t need to visit your doctor’s office to get a diagnosis for a common cold. And in the 7 to 10 days following the onset of a cold, the infection subsides.

However, you should schedule a visit with a doctor if your symptoms get worse or last for more than ten days. Thereafter, your physician will determine whether you are experiencing a separate medical issue.

How can I treat the common cold? 

Most viruses, like the common cold, need to run their course. Although the infection itself cannot be treated, you can manage the symptoms of the infection in the following ways:


The most typical OTC drugs for colds include decongestants to reduce nasal stuffiness and congestion. Antihistamines can reduce sneezing and treat stuffy noses, and painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can soothe a fever, body aches, and inflammation.

Home cures

Home remedies for the common cold do not treat or cure colds, just like OTC cold medications. Instead, they can assist in lessening the severity and difficulty of your symptoms. The most popular and efficient natural cold cures are steam inhalation, gargling with salt water, drinking lots of fluids, and taking a lot of rest. 

How can I protect myself from the common cold? 

Even though simple colds are mild infections, they can be uncomfortable and depressing. Although we cannot prevent the common cold with a vaccine like the flu, you can take a few precautions during the cold and flu season to stay healthy.

Wash your hands

A simple strategy to prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer gels and sprays.

Keep distance

In confined spaces like offices or schools, germs can spread quickly. If you realize they don’t feel good, put extra effort into avoiding people. If you come into contact with them, ensure that you wash your hands immediately.

Take good care of your digestive system.

Consume a lot of yogurt and other foods high in bacteria, or take a daily probiotic supplement. Maintaining healthy gut microbes helps to maintain your overall health.

Don’t touch your face  

Although cold viruses can remain on your body without making you ill, you may become ill if you come into contact with them while touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. If possible, wash your hands beforehand before touching your face.

Take ample rest

Rest is important for you and can help stop the illness from spreading to others.

Sneeze into your elbow

Grab a tissue to cover it if you start to sneeze or cough.  Sneeze or cough into your elbow rather than your hands if you don’t have one. If you use your hands, wash them right away.

Disinfect frequently

If someone in your home is sick, disinfect all commonly touched areas, such as doorknobs, kitchen counters, appliances, and remote controls.

If you experience symptoms related to the common cold, don’t delay consulting your doctor. Receiving proper medical treatment and care is the only way to steer clear of any related medical complications.

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