Colds - Common Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Care

What are colds?

Colds are common infections usually caused by different viruses that may inflame the membranes lining your nose, throat and chest. Inflammation of these membranes may cause nasal congestion, preventing the flow of air breathed into your nose and the drainage of mucous into the back of the nasal cavity. 

Cold key terms

  • Virus infection
  • Contagious – easily transmitted person to person
  • Upper respiratory - nose, throat and chest

What are the common symptoms?

Colds produce similar symptoms that may include: 

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Blocked nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Low-grade fever

The symptoms of a cold usually resolve within ten days.

Make sure you visit your doctor if you have symptoms that last longer than ten days, are worsening or you’re having trouble breathing. Young children and the elderly should also be seen by the doctor.

What causes colds?

Colds are usually caused by different viruses that you can catch at any time during the year. Although anyone is at risk, you may be more likely to catch the virus if you are: 

  • Aged over 65 years old or are living in a residential nursing home
  • Suffering from a heart or kidney disease
  • Pregnant
  • Obese
  • Have breathing problems, severe asthma or lung disease, such as cystic fibrosis
  • Muscular or nerve disease, such as muscular dystrophy
  • Living with a weakened immune system, such as HIV
  • A smoker

Preventing colds

Colds are very contagious and easily spread from person to person through small droplets in the air. For example, if someone with a cold sneezes, coughs or blows their nose near you, the virus could easily spread to you.

If you come into contact with someone who has symptoms of a cold make sure you wash your hands with soap and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. You should also take care to wash your hands before eating or preparing food. After using the bathroom, consider using paper towels instead of sharing cloth towels.

Taking care of your health when suffering from a cold

The best way to recover from a cold is through getting plenty of rest and adequate sleep and making sure you drink plenty of fluids.

If you would like relief from symptoms, you may try a steam inhalation for a blocked nose or gargling lemon juice for a sore throat.

There are some medications you can use to treat aches and pains; however you should check with your doctor before taking any medicine. As viruses are usually the cause of colds, antibiotics that treat bacterial infections are ineffective in these cases. 

Did you know?

About 200 different viruses can cause a cold, making it easy to catch another cold after recovering from one. Having a cold is the most common type of illness you can develop, and sometimes you can have up to four per year.


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