Common Cold

Condition 101

What is the definition of Common Cold?

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.

What are the alternative names for Common Cold?

Upper respiratory infection - viral; Cold

What are the causes for Common Cold?

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:

  • A person with a cold sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you
  • You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob

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.

What are the symptoms for Common Cold?

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:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Sneezing

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:

  • Cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sore throat

What are the current treatments for Common Cold?

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

  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your cold go away faster, but can help you feel better. These OTC medicines are not recommended for children under age 4.
  • Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold.
  • Many alternative treatments have been tried for colds, such as vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea. Talk to your health care provider before trying any herbs or supplements.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Common Cold?

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.

What are the possible complications for Common Cold?

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

A cold may also lead to:

  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis

When should I contact a medical professional for Common Cold?

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

  • You have problems breathing.
  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve after 7 to 10 days.

How do I prevent Common Cold?

To lower your chances of getting sick:

  • Always wash your hands. Children and adults should wash hands after nose-wiping, diapering, and using the bathroom, and before eating and preparing food.
  • Disinfect your environment. Clean commonly touched surfaces (such as sink handles, door knobs, and sleeping mats) with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
  • Choose smaller daycare classes for your children.
  • Use instant hand sanitizers to stop the spread of germs.
  • Use paper towels instead of sharing cloth towels.

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

  • Avoid secondhand smoke. It is responsible for many health problems, including colds.
  • DO NOT use antibiotics if they are not needed.
  • Breastfeed infants if possible. Breast milk is known to protect against respiratory tract infections in children, even years after you stop breastfeeding.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help your immune system work properly.
  • Eat yogurt that contains "active cultures." These may help prevent colds. Probiotics may help prevent colds in children.
  • Get enough sleep.


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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common colds: protect yourself and others. Updated February 11, 2019. Accessed March 1, 2019.

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.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
  • Condition: Prophylaxis and Therapy for COVID-19
  • Journal: Global advances in health and medicine
  • Treatment Used: Ascorbate
  • Number of Patients: 50
  • Published —
This article discusses the possible utility of intravenous (IV) ascorbate in the treatment of COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Latest Advance
  • Condition: SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus)
  • Journal: International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases
  • Treatment Used: High dose oral zinc salts
  • Number of Patients: 4
  • Published —
The study researched the use of high dose oral zinc salts for patients with SARS-CoV-2.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: COVID-19
  • Journal: Microbes and infection
  • Treatment Used: Nitric Oxide (NO)
  • Published —
This study evaluated whether nitric oxide (a gas that is inhaled; NO) could prevent or treat COVID-19.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Perennial allergic rhinitis
  • Journal: Complementary therapies in medicine
  • Treatment Used: So-Cheong-Ryong-Tang
  • Number of Patients: N/A
  • Published —
The study researched the effects of So-Cheong-Ryong-Tang for perennial allergic rhinitis.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 45
  • Start Date: June 11, 2020
Effect of PVP-I Nasal Sprays vs Normal Saline Nasal Sprays on SARS-CoV-2 Nasopharyngeal Titers
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 140
  • Start Date: February 14, 2020
Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia: a Prospective Randomized Clinical Trial
Clinical Trial
Dietary Supplement
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Dietary Supplement
  • Participants: 200
  • Start Date: October 16, 2019
Evaluation of the Impact of the HLNatural, Inc. Immune Support Product in Reducing the Length of Cold Symptoms in Adults Suffering From the Common Cold