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Common cold Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

Runny noses, itchy throats, sore headaches, and a need for a tissue every few minutes is something we are familiar with. Once every year, we may fall victims to this disease that is both cold and common. Aren’t I right?

A common cold is termed an infection of the upper respiratory system that is caused by a bunch of different viruses found in the air. It may also be transmitted through contact with a person already a victim of this disease.

Common cold Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

There are around 200 different virus strains that are responsible for you missing out on an important work meeting or a lunch date with friends.

Because you need to excuse yourself every two seconds because of that runny nose. Instead, sit at your home and enjoy watching Netflix, am I right?

If you do have a common cold, you do not need to weep. We will discuss every aspect of this disease so you can familiarize yourself with it and maybe save yourself by taking precautions. Let us dive in, shall we?

What are the symptoms of common colds?

Though the disease may be called the common cold, it is not right to suppose that it can only affect you in the winter season.

Another misconception with common colds is that they may be confused with influenza (flu) or allergies. However, here are a few indicators that might help you determine if it is the common cold that is bothering you.

  • Sneezing episodes
  • Series of coughing
  • Observing headaches
  • Victim to tiredness and body aches
  • Having a sore throat
  • Having a runny nose
  • Experiencing nasal congestion
  • Feeling cold 
  • May have a loss of appetite

These symptoms can last around seven to ten days, depending upon the intensity of the infection. However, the symptoms can last for nearly a month.

These signs can appear strongly in the early days of infection and some symptoms may last even after the person has recovered from the infection.

What are the causes of the common cold?

The thing about the common cold is that it is not caused by one airborne virus. You may be exposed to any of the 200 virus strains responsible for ruining your day with a runny nose.

The virus may be rhinovirus, coronavirus, or parainfluenza. However, rhinovirus takes the lead because they contribute majorly to causing the common colds.

Having said that, these viruses like to fly and that is how they transmit themselves into our bodies, causing the common colds. It can enter your body through your ears, your eyes, or even your mouth.

They are so tiny that they can get themselves caught within the air droplets. When a person carrying the infection sneezes or coughs near you, they are transferred in the air you breathe.

Another interesting thing about these viruses is that they force humans to not follow the social conduct of hugging and greeting with handshakes.

They might as well be the clingy virus because they infect anyone in their vicinity who dares follow this social protocol.

So, if you are using anything that may have been used by the infected person, then well you might as well buy the box of tissues. Or boxes of tissues. Even if you touch your nose or your mouth after you have contacted these infected things, you are liable to catch a cold.

A misconception with common colds is that they infect people in the winter season. Now they may be called common colds, but this is not the case.

The reason for a higher rate of transmission during the winter season is that people have changes in their respiratory system causing chances of lower immunity.

The virus transmission rate is also higher due to temperature changes. But the disease itself can infect a person any time of the year.

What are the risk factors of the common colds?

Some risk factors can increase your chances of getting infected with the common cold.

  • Weak immune system
  • Small age
  • Smoking
  • Contagious environment
  • Changes in temperature

The foremost is a weakened immune system. if you are easily targeted with infections, then a common cold is often the most common disease to infect such a person.

Lack of sleep and lack of a proper diet can increase the chances of getting infected with the colds because of their indirect relation with immunity.

Another factor is age. If a child or infant is exposed to the environment, he is more likely to catch a cold than people in older ages.

Often, these toddlers spend their time at daycares which is quite an exposed environment for such diseases.

If you are present in large crowds or gatherings often in your day, then you might be no stranger to acquiring the likes of the common cold.

Smokers may also have a larger tendency to get infected with colds rather than non-smokers. Apart from that, as we talked about, the winter season may affect more individuals in a year than in other seasons.

Are there any complications of the common cold?

The common cold is often treated like the player sitting at the bench. It does not pose a direct threat to you but if given the chance, it may change the game and put you in a bunch of complications.

Hence, here are some complications of the disease:

If the virus falls into the space behind the eardrum, you may not just run a fever but may also be targeted with earaches. Now, nobody wants a drumming headache with a wheezing nose, right? This is called an ear infection.

People who have asthma face the worse colds. Even the common cold can cause problems in breathing but with asthma, it becomes necessary to put your inhaler close by.

Common colds that last longer than they are supposed to, could also damage the sinuses through inflammation.

Another complication that arises with colds is that they invite many respiratory infections with their cause. Infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, and strep throat are some of the common ones that need a doctor to be treated.

When should you see a doctor if you are infected with common colds?

The common cold does not require a doctor for it to be treated. A normal course of medications or a few days in time recovers the symptoms from a cold.

However, if the person’s symptoms have not recovered after the normal 10 days, it is better to consult a doctor.

Even if the symptoms worsen, they could indicate a complication and complications should always be treated in the hospital.

It is better to see a doctor if the following reasons happen:

  • An infant has a constant fever and is fatigued
  • An adult is running a high fever

What is the diagnosis of common colds?

A long, hefty exam is not required to diagnose a cold. The doctor or nurse will check for a few indications that may determine if what has gotten you wheezing is a cold or not.

These pointers include a stuffed nose and an itchy throat that does not want to be bothered and clear lungs.

You can already feel the symptoms all over you, can’t you? The doctor also checks for swelling in the lymph nodes and nostrils.

To rule out complications, the doctor may ask for some tests like the chest X-ray or the cotton swab test. But these are only done when the doctor suspects something is bothering you besides the common cold.

What is the treatment of common colds?

To recover from a common cold, you need to let it pass its time. There is no easy way to get out of the constant sneezing and coughing.

You can take medications to reduce the intensity of the symptoms, but the disease will complete its course before it stops affecting you.

Dextromethorphan can help in reducing coughing episodes. Ibuprofen can act as a pain reliever and is good for lowering fever.

Apart from that, some decongestants can help in nasal congestion and in relieving the sinuses. However, it is advised to consult a doctor before you take any medications.

Are there any home remedies for a common cold?

Common colds have always been made better with the remedies people have cocked up at homes. They seem to affect what these medications fail to provide. Maybe it’s the make-believe concept.


Anyway, have you ever heard of people bragging about how they eat ice cream during their cold infection, and it seems to heal it for them?

Well, it may be a stretch, but popsicles and similar cool fluids like water often numb the swelling you have in your throat during the infection. It eases the pain which reduces the symptoms down a lot. Stay hydrated.  

Apart from that, warm fluids like hot soup and tea can relieve your sinuses and can help you breathe properly. It may also warm up your bothered throat.

Adding honey or ginger to your warm cup of tea can also produce beneficial effects on your body. Stay away from coffee though, it produces dehydration.


Secondly, you must be well rested to cope up with the symptoms of a cold. If you are overworked, fatigued, and under-slept, your body will be too tired to function and recover from the common cold symptoms.

If you have been infected by this disease, it is better to take a day off or two so you can relax and recover faster.

It is better this way because you will be saving people from your surrounding from catching the colds too.

Inhaling steam

Now, this is the remedy that has helped more people than we can count altogether. Inhaling steam can relieve your sinuses, allowing steady breathing, and help in nasal congestion.

It is a useful tip that has helped generations down the road. You can also use water and mix a teaspoon of salt in it for gargling. This can help relieve the itchy throat as well.

What should be prevented to be saved from the common colds?

Hygiene care

The only way you can prevent the common colds in the best way possible is to take care of your hygiene and your surroundings. You should keep washing your hands.

It is advised by experts to wash your hands for a total of 20 seconds to remove all germs resting on your hands. You should wash your hands after every little or big chore that you do.

It is better to always keep a hand sanitizer with you. Even if water is not available, you can use a quick splash of the sanitizer that will keep your hands safe from these viruses to a great extent.

Always use a disinfectant for cleaning utensils, floors, doors, and walls around the house. It will keep your house safe from any viruses, not just the common cold. 

And disinfectants have a nice smell that will keep your environment fresh. Even stuffed toys and cushions should be washed with the disinfectant periodically.

Take care of your surroundings

If you are coughing constantly, it is better to keep a tissue box around and even better to keep a dustbin nearby. The bin is to throw the tissues after every use. They could infect someone else.

If you do not have a tissue, then you should always cough or sneeze at the bend of your elbow. This will save others from direct contact with the infection. But be sure to wash your hands as soon as you can.

If you have a common cold, omit out the utensils that you use and keep them separate. This will save others from using the same things and from getting a cold.

Avoid direct contact and stay healthy

If you are in a crowd, it is best to keep your distance. If you know someone who has a cold, it is better to not interact with them closely.

When admitting your children into daycare facilities, make sure that it has a safe, clean, and healthy environment.

If you wish to prevent yourself from catching a cold, be sure to keep yourself healthy and fit. Stay hydrated and remain well-rested. Drink fluids like water and tea. Avoid caffeine.

Eat healthy fruits, warm foods, and get a lot of exercise to keep your immune system healthy.

Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist


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