Common cold

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The common cold is a form of viral infection associated with runny nose, scratchy throat and a general feeling of being unwell. It is called "common" as it is the most frequently occurring illness in the world. It is also the leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work.

There is documented reference to colds in ancient Egypt with the hieroglyphs mentioning cough and common cold. The Greek Hippocrates gave a description of the disease in the 5th century BC.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • You and your children will probably have more colds than any other type of illness.
  • Children in preschool and elementary school can have three to 12 colds per year while adolescents and adults typically have two to four colds per year.
  • Research shows that more than 200 different types of viruses are responsible for common cold. Because so many different viruses can cause a cold and because new cold viruses constantly develop, the body never builds up resistance against all of them. For this reason, colds are a frequent and recurring problem.
  • There is no cure for common cold, though there are medicines which can reduce the duration and the discomfort.
  • It is a self-limited contagious illness.
  • There is no one cause of common cold. It can be caused by a number of different types of viruses.
  • Since it is a viral infection antibiotics will not help as they are effective in treating bacterial infections.
  • Home remedies for common cold are very effective.

All about common cold

The common cold is also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection. For all its achievements, medical science does not have a cure for the common cold. The common cold is a minor illness caused by one of as many as 200 different kinds of viruses, including rhinovirus and adenovirus.

Signs and Symptoms

The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Those suffering from common cold might also have

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nasal discharge may change from watery to thick yellow or green.


Colds are most contagious during the first 2 to 4 days after symptoms appear, and may be contagious for up to 3 weeks. Your can catch a cold from

  • Person-to-person contact
  • Breathing in virus particles spread through the air by sneezing or coughing
  • Touching the mouth or nose after touching skin or another surface contaminated with a rhinovirus can also spread a cold.


Since there are as many as 200 viruses’ responsible for the common cold, there is no vaccine to protect a person from catching colds.

  • Steer clear of anyone who smokes or who has a cold. Virus particles can travel up to 12 feet through the air when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes, and secondhand smoke can make your child more likely to get sick.
  • Wash kids hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after blowing their nose.
  • Cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing
  • Do not use the same towels or eating utensils as someone who has a cold.
  • They also should not drink from the same glass, can, or bottle as anyone else — you never know who might be about to come down with a cold and is already spreading the virus.


Cold symptoms usually appear 2 or 3 days after exposure to a source of infection. Most colds clear up within 1 week, but some last for as long as 2 weeks.


"Time cures all." That may not always be true, but in the case of the common cold, it's pretty close. Medicine can't cure the common cold, but it can be used to relieve such symptoms as muscle aches, headache, and fever.

What can I do?

To ease cold discomfort

  • Take saltwater drops in the nostrils to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Rinse your throat with warm salted water.
  • Have ginger tea.
  • Get a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture.
  • Apply petroleum jelly on the skin under the nose to soothe rawness.
  • Have hard candy or cough drops to relieve sore throat
  • Drink luke warm water.

90 degrees - What we do not know yet

  • A virus that causes cold-like symptoms in humans originated in birds and may have crossed the species barrier around 200 years ago, according to a new article published in the Journal of General Virology. Scientists hope their findings will help us understand how potentially deadly viruses emerge in humans.[1]
  • A University of Calgary scientist confirms that it is how our immune system responds, not the rhinovirus itself, that causes cold symptoms. Of more than 100 different viruses that can cause the common cold, human rhinoviruses are the major cause.[2]
  • The researchers found that human rhinoviruses are organized into about 15 small groups that come from distant ancestors. The discovery of these multiple groups explains why a "one drug fits all" approach for anti-viral agents does not work. The researchers also found that the human rhinovirus skips a step when it makes its protein product, a shortcut that probably speeds up its ability to make a person feel sick soon after infection.[3]


  • Although the common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting 1 to 2 weeks, it is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work.[4]
  • Children have about 6 to 10 colds a year.[4]
  • In families with children in school, the number of colds per child can be as high as 12 a year.[4]
  • Adults average about two to four colds a year, although the range varies widely.[4]
  • Women, especially those aged 20 to 30 years, have more colds than men, possibly because of their closer contact with children .[4]
  • On average, people older than 60 have fewer than one cold a year.[4]


  • Though the common cold usually occurs in the fall and winter months, the cold weather itself does not cause the common cold. Rather, it is thought that during cold-weather months people spend more time indoors in close proximity to each other, thus facilitating the spread of the virus. For this same reason, children in day care and school are particularly prone to acquiring the common cold.
  • Not wearing a jacket or sweater when it is chilly, sitting or sleeping in a draft, and going outside while your hair is wet being do not cause colds as against what old wives tales have us to believe.

See Also


  • Common cold
  • Cold
  • The common cold
  • Common cold:History
  • Comon cold


  1. Common Cold Virus Came From Birds About 200 Years Ago, Study Suggests:ScienceDaily
  2. Common Cold Symptoms Caused By Immune System -- Not The Cold Virus:ScienceDaily
  3. Code Of The Common Cold Cracked:ScienceDaily
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Common Cold:NIAID