Common Cold

Common Cold


The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract – the nose and throat. It is usually harmless and symptoms include coughing, sore throat, watery eyes, congestion, runny nose, sneezing and fever which usually resolve in about seven to ten days, with some symptoms lasting up to three weeks. Symptoms are mostly due to the body’s immune response to the infection rather than to tissue destruction by the viruses themselves.

Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold causing virus, the discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in colour as a common cold runs its course. What makes a cold different from other viral infections is that you generally won’t have a high fever. You are also unlikely to experience significant fatigue from a common cold.

The common cold is typically transmitted via airborne droplets (aerosols), direct contact with infected nasal secretions, or fomities (contaminated objects). However hand –to-hand and hand-to-surface-to-hand contact seems of more importance than transmission via aerosols.

Transmission is common in daycare and at school due to proximity of many children with little immunity and frequently poor hygiene; these infections are then brought home to other members of the family.

There is no evidence that re-circulated air during commercial flight is a method of transmission, however people sitting in proximity appear at greater risk.



For adults – seek medical attention if you have;

          Fever of 39.40C or higher

          Fever accompanied by sweating, chills and a cough with coloured phlegm

          Significantly swollen glands

          Severe sinus pain


For children – in general children are sicker with a common cold than adults are and often develop complication such as ear infections. You should seek medical attention for children if they have;

          Fever of 380C in newborns up to 12 weeks

          Fever that rises repeatedly above 400C in a child of any age

          Signs of dehydration, such as urinating less often than usual

          Not drinking adequate fluids

          Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in children younger than 2

          Fever that lasts more than three days in a child older than 2

          Vomiting or abdominal pain

          Unusual sleepiness

          Severe headache

          Stiff neck

          Difficulty breathing

          Persistent crying

          Ear pain

          Persistent cough


Factors that can increase your chances of getting a cold:

·      Age: Infants and preschool children are especially susceptible to common colds because they haven’t yet developed resistance to most of the viruses that cause common cold.

·         Immunity: An immature immune system can also affect your resistance to many of the viruses that cause common cold. You will have colds less frequently than you did as a child.

·       Time of the year: There is a traditional folk theory that a cold can be “caught” by prolonged exposure to cold weather such as rain or winter conditions, which is how the disease got its name. While colds are caused by viruses and not cold temperatures, there is some controversy over the role of body cooling as a risk factor for the common cold: the majority of the evidence suggests that it may result in greater susceptibility to infection. This may occur due to cold induced changes in the respiratory system, decreased immune response and low humidity increasing viral transmission rates, perhaps due to dry air allowing small viral droplets to disperse farther and stay longer. Additionally some viruses that cause the common colds are seasonal, occurring more frequently during cold or wet weather. It may also be due to people spending more time indoors near an infected person, specifically children at school.

·         Others include; insufficient sleep and malnutrition, this is believed to be due to their effects on immune function.


Complications of common cold

·         Acute ear infection (Otitis media)

·         Wheezing

·         Sinusitis

·         Other secondary infections include; Sore throat (streptococcal pharyngitis), pneumonia and croup or bronchiolitis in children.



The only possible useful ways to reduce the spread of cold viruses are physical measures such as hand washing and face masks, in the healthcare environment, gowns and disposable gloves.

Regular hand washing appears to be effective in reducing the transmission of cold viruses especially among children.

Zinc supplements may help to reduce the prevalence of colds

Routine Vitamin C may reduce its duration



Treatment comprises symptomatic relief, getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to maintain hydration and gargling with warm salt water.



Ø  Do not give your child two medicines with the same active ingredient, such as antihistamine, decongestant or pain reliever. Too much of a single ingredient could lead to an accidental overdose.

Ø  Most people recover from a common cold in about a week or two. If symptoms don’t improve, see your doctor.










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