Common cold


Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Upper respiratory infection - viral; Cold

Causes

This EM Should be displayed at the top of the article section "Causes"

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

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

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

Colds can occur at any time of the year, but they are most common in the winter or rainy seasons.

A cold 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:

People are most contagious for the first 2 to 3 days of a cold. A cold is most often not contagious after the first week.

Symptoms

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 cold symptoms are:

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:

Treatment

Most colds go away in a few days. Some things you can do to take care of yourself with a cold include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

The fluid from your runny nose will become thicker. It may turn yellow or green within a few days. This is normal, and not a reason for antibiotics.

Most cold symptoms go away within a week in most cases. If you still feel sick after 7 days, see your provider. Your provider may check to rule out a sinus infection, allergies, or other medical problem.

Possible Complications

Colds are the most common trigger of wheezing in children with asthma.

A cold may also lead to:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Try treating your cold at home first. Call your provider if:

Prevention

To lower your chances of getting sick:

The immune system helps your body fight off infection. Here are ways to support the immune system:

References

Allan GM, Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ. 2014;186(3):190-199. PMID: 24468694 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24468694.

Avner JR. Fever. In: Selbst SM, ed. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Secrets. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 13.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common colds: protect yourself and others. Updated February 6, 2016. Cdc.gov Web site. www.cdc.gov/Features/Rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed February 1, 2017.

Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(1):CD000980. PMID: 23440782 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782.

Miller EK, Williams JV. The common cold. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 379.

Turner RB. The common cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 361.

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