Overview Of Cold

The common cold most often causes a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. You may also have a sore throat, cough, headache, or other symptoms.

Commonly Associated With

Upper respiratory infection – viral; Common cold

Causes Of Cold

It is called the common cold for good reason. There are over one billion cases in the United States each year. You and your children will probably have this condition more than any other type of illness.

Colds are the most common reason that children miss school and parents miss work. Parents often get this condition from their children.

Children can get many colds every year. They usually get them from other children. They can spread quickly through schools or daycares.

This condition can occur at any time of the year, but it is most common in the winter or rainy seasons.

This type of virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs or blows their nose.

You can catch a cold if:

  • An infected person sneezes coughs, or blows their nose near you
  • You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob
  • People are most contagious for the first 2 to 3 days. Typically, they are not contagious after the first week.


Cold symptoms usually start about 2 or 3 days after you came in contact with the virus, although it could take up to a week. Symptoms mostly affect the nose.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Sneezing
  • Adults and older children with colds generally have a low fever or no fever. Young children often run a fever around 100°F to 102°F (37.7°C to 38.8°C).

Depending on which virus caused your cold, you may also have:

  • Cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sore throat

Treatment Of Cold

Most colds go away in a few days.

Some things you can do to take care of yourself include:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your infection go away faster but can help you feel better. These OTC medicines are not recommended for children under age 4.
  • Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold.
  • Many alternative treatments have been tried, such as vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea. Talk to your health care provider before trying any herbs or supplements.