Common cold is an inflammation of the mucosa in the nose, sinuses and throat and is caused by a viral infection. Possible symptoms include sneezing, sniffing, coughing, sore throat, hoarseness and earache. A person can also feel very sick. Cold is the most common disease. Almost everyone is affected sometimes.
Common cold is caused by a virus. This is usually the rhinovirus, but there are many viruses that can cause a cold. When someone runs a cold several times in succession, it’s each time another virus.
Cold viruses spread easily through droplets of moisture in exhaled air that are inhaled again by others. This happens especially when people sit close together in poorly ventilated areas, such as on the bus, tram or train, in the office, at school or in a nursery.
The virus can also be transferred via the hands. A person who has a cold, for example, touches his nose or holds his hand over his mouth to sneeze or cough. Then he or she shakes hands to another person or touches something that is then touched by others.
After infection, it takes two to three days before the first symptoms occur.
Signs and symptoms that occur in common cold are:
- Runny nose.
- Sore throat.
- Slight increase in temperature.
- Teary eyes.
A common cold is therefore not limited to the nose. A bad cold causes a flu-like feeling. In addition to the symptoms above, a person has also fever then and feels listless and limp.
The diagnosis of common cold can usually be made on the basis of the symptoms. High fever, severe headache, rash, difficulty breathing or chest pain indicate that the infection is no ordinary cold. A laboratory test is usually not needed to diagnose a cold. However, if complications are suspected, blood tests and X-rays may be performed.
A common cold cannot be cured with medication. Antibiotics don’t help with colds. Antibiotics only work against bacteria and not against viruses. Therefore, it will simply have to run itself out. Still it’s wise to contact the general practitioner if the cold lasts longer than two weeks, if you have a fever that lasts longer than five days, if you are very stuffy or when the fever comes back after it had disappeared.
For small children and babies, special attention is required when they have colds.
In most cases, common cold passes on its own. People often heal from colds in one to three weeks. The body deals with colds itself.
Some people may have severe symptoms by infection with the cold virus. This relates to asthma patients, people with heart and/or lung diseases and premature babies (i.e. born before 32 weeks pregnancy).
- Keep a hand or a handkerchief over the mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash hands regularly.
- Use disposable handkerchiefs and throw them away after use.
- Frequently clean door handles and other objects which are grasped by others. The virus can spread rapidly.
- Ensure good ventilation in your house.
- Clean bedding regularly and wash at least on 60°C.
- Avoid extra irritation of the mucosa, such as by smoke. Smoking can cause cold symptoms to persist much longer.
- Take a steam bath or use a humidifier.
- Use nasal spray or saline solution against a stuffy nose.
- Drink a lot, preferably water, tea or juice.
- Optionally take a painkiller, such as paracetamol. The cold will not cure faster then, it only suppresses the symptoms and thus one feels temporarily better.
- Take care of a strong immune system by eating and drinking healthy and sufficient exercise.
- Although the disease was already known in ancient times, the main cause of common cold, the rhinovirus, was determined only in 1956 in Great Britain.
- The prevalence of common cold is 24%.
- Adults have colds three to four times a year.
- Common colds are most common at child age, with an average of six to eight times per year.