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The Common Cold


Updated May 28, 2014

Young girl blowing her nose
Jamie Grill/The Image Bank/Getty Images


The Common Cold

May also be referred to as: Upper Respiratory infection, Viral illness, URI


Year Round

More common in the winter months

Who is Affected:

People of all ages are affected by the common cold. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible.


Hundreds of different viruses can cause a cold. The most common are rhinovirus, coxsackievirus and coronavirus.

How the Common Cold is Spread:

You can contract a cold either by touch or air. If you touch someone or something with a cold virus on it and then touch your eyes, mouth, or open wound, you may become infected. You may also inhale the droplets of virus in the air when someone coughs or sneezes.

What to Expect:

You may develop congestion, cough, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat, watery eyes, tiredness, and occasionally fever. Fever is more common in children than in adults. These symptoms usually last 7 to 10 days. Colds can leave you feeling run down and tired but typically don't prevent you from getting out of bed like the flu does.

If your symptoms start off bad, get better and then suddenly get worse again, contact your health care provider. This is typically a sign of a secondary infection.

Colds are highly contagious, meaning they spread easily from person to person, which is why we all get them. The length of time that you are contagious can vary.

Is There a Cure for the Common Cold?:

There is no cure for the common cold. Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses and developing a vaccine or medication to treat or prevent them all just isn't possible at this time. You can treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications or natural remedies. You should also try to get extra rest and drink plenty of fluids. This means more fluids than usual! If your symptoms do not improve after 7 to 10 days, see a health care provider because you may have a different illness or could have developed a secondary infection.

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