Common cold: Introduction
The common cold is an extremely common upper respiratory infection of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose and throat. The common cold is caused by a virus and is very contagious. There are about 200 different types of viruses than can cause the common cold. Most cases of the common cold are mild, and most people recover from the common cold without complications. However, in some cases the common cold can lead to more serious infections and complications.
The effects of the common cold can vary between individuals and the specific type of virus causing the infection. Symptoms of the common cold include low-grade fever, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, sore throat, and cough. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of the common cold.
Because symptoms of the common cold can be mild, some people may not seek medical care and get a diagnosis. Because symptoms can also resemble symptoms of other diseases, a diagnosis can be missed. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of the common cold.
Viruses that cause the common cold spread from person to person when someone with the common cold talks, coughs or sneezes. This shoots droplets contaminated with the common cold virus into the air where they can be breathed in by others. The common cold also spreads by touching an infected person or a surface contaminated by the virus, such as a contaminated drinking glass or doorknob.
The common cold is most common during the winter, especially during rainy weather, although it can occur at any time of year.
Some people are at risk for complications of common cold. These people include those who have a chronic disease, an immunodeficiency disorder, a suppressed or compromised immune system, and the very young and very old. In these people, complications of the common cold can be serious and include the development of pneumonia, otitis media, acute bronchitis, sinusitis, and the worsening of asthma.
Diagnosing a common cold begins with taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam. Some tests may be done to rule-out other infections that have similar symptoms to the common cold. These tests include a throat culture and sensitivity to test for strep throat and influenza testing.
Additional testing may be performed if it is suspected that a common cold has led to the develoment of complications, such as pneumonia or acute bronchitis. Testing may include a complete blood count (CBC) and a chest X-Ray.
The best protection from getting or spreading the common cold includes covering the mouth and nose with the elbow or a tissue when sneezing or coughing and washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Antibacterial cleaners can also be used to clean hands and surfaces. It is also important to avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth, which can transmit the common cold virus from the hands into nose and mouth.
There is currently no cure for the common cold. Treatment includes measures to help relieve symptoms and keep the body as strong as possible to minimize the risk of developing complications. Most people who are in general good health can recover from the common cold at home with supportive care, such as rest, drinking extra fluids, and over-the-counter cold remedies.
The age-old remedy of chicken soup may actually help to break up congestion and provides easy-to-digest nutrients to help keep up strength. Alternative treatment may also be recommended to shorten the length of the common cold.
Antibiotics are ineffective against the common cold, but for some people, a prescribed antiviral drug may be appropriate to help shorten the length of the disease. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of the common cold. ...more »
Almost everyone is familiar with the feeling you get
when you start a common cold,
such as a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, or tearing.
Colds are very common but are more common in children
and decline with age.
They are rarely dangerous to healthy adults or children,
but may occasionally be dangerous to infants, the elderly or other at-risk groups.
Correct diagnosis of a cold usually means distinguishing
between cold and the more serious flu, which is not always easy,
but is important because of newer antiviral medications for the flu.
There are also other conditions that start like a cold
(e.g. rare but serious whooping cough)
and numerous conditions that have cold-like symptoms
or flu-like symptoms.
Although there are numerous different subtypes of colds,
diagnosis of the specific subtype of cold is rarely performed
and not usually important for treatment. ...more »
Common cold: Symptoms
Symptoms of the common cold are generally mild and include runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Symptoms can vary depending on the specific type of virus causing the common cold. Some people can also experience fever, cough, body aches, headache, fatigue, post-nasal drip, and sore throat.
In some people, the common cold can ...more symptoms »
Common cold: Treatments
Treatment of the common cold starts with prevention. Preventive measures include covering the mouth and nose with an elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing and washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Antibacterial cleaners can also be effectively used to clean hands and surfaces. It is also important to avoid touching the eyes, ...more treatments »
Common cold: Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosing the common cold is possible because the symptoms of the common cold can mimic symptoms of other diseases, such as strep throat, pneumonia, and influenza or flu. To ensure the symptoms are due to the common cold and not other diseases, some tests may be done, such as a throat culture and sensitivity test to test for strep throat. Other tests may ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Common cold
See full list of 20
symptoms of Common cold
Treatments for Common cold
See full list of 10
treatments for Common cold
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to Common cold:
Wrongly Diagnosed with Common cold?
Common cold: Related Patient Stories
Alternative Treatments for Common cold
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Common cold may include:
Types of Common cold
- Rhinovirus-related colds - 30-35% of colds
- Coronavirus-related colds
- Adenovirus-related colds
- Coxsackievirus-related colds
- Echovirus-related colds
- more types...»
See full list of 9
Types of Common cold
Common cold: Complications
Review possible medical complications related to Common cold:
Causes of Common cold
See full list of 7
causes of Common cold
Read more about causes of Common cold.
More information about causes of Common cold:
Disease Topics Related To Common cold
Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Common cold:
Common cold: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Common cold
Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases,
because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms.
Although the most common symptoms are anal...read more »
Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis,
when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection,
such as a common cold....read more »
Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been
immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears
off after about 15 years....read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed...read more »
Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue
with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure.
The "cuff" around the arm to...read more »
Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be
correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients.
These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Common cold
Common cold: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research related physicians and medical specialists:
Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:
Hospitals & Clinics: Common cold
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to Common cold:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to Common cold,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Common cold: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Latest Treatments for Common cold
See full list of 19
latest treatments for Common cold
Evidence Based Medicine Research for Common cold
Medical research articles related to Common cold include:
Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database
Common cold: Animations
More Common cold animations & videos
Prognosis for Common cold
Prognosis for Common cold:
Recovery from colds usually takes about a week but this can vary depending on the age and overall health of the patient.
More about prognosis of Common cold
Research about Common cold
Visit our research pages for current research about Common cold treatments.
Clinical Trials for Common cold
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Common cold include:
See full list of 10
Clinical Trials for Common cold
Prevention of Common cold
Prevention information for Common cold has been compiled from various data sources
and may be inaccurate or incomplete.
None of these methods guarantee prevention of Common cold.
- Avoid exposure to people with colds
- Avoid touching eyes or nose with your hands
- Cleaning with disinfectant - on surfaces that may be contagious.
- more preventions...»
Read more about prevention of Common cold
Statistics for Common cold
Common cold: Broader Related Topics
Types of Common cold
Common cold Message Boards
Related forums and medical stories:
User Interactive Forums
Read about other experiences, ask a question about Common cold, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:
Article Excerpts about Common cold
Sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose –
everyone knows the first signs of a cold, probably the most common illness
known. Although the common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting one
to two weeks, it is a leading cause of doctor visits and of school and job
(Source: excerpt from The Common Cold, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)
Definitions of Common cold:
Catarrhal disorder of the upper respiratory tract, which may be viral or a mixed infection; marked by acute coryza, slight rise in temperature, chilly sensations, and general indisposition.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A mild viral infection involving the nose and respiratory passages (but not the lungs); "will they never find a cure for the common cold?"
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Contents for Common cold:
User Surveys and Discussion Forums
» Next page: What is Common cold?
Medical Tools & Articles:
Tools & Services:
Forums & Message Boards
- Ask or answer a question at the Boards: