The common cold is a viral infection
of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It's usually harmless,
although it might not feel that way.
Symptoms of a common cold usually
appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Signs and
symptoms, which can vary from person to person, might include:
or stuffy nose
body aches or a mild headache
feeling unwell (malaise)
The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in color as a common cold runs its course. This isn't an indication of a bacterial infection.
WHEN TO SEE A
For adults — seek medical attention if you
greater than 101.3 F (38.5 C)
lasting five days or more or returning after a fever-free period
sore throat, headache or sinus pain
For children — in general, your child doesn't
need to see the doctor for a common cold. But seek medical attention right away
if your child has any of the following:
of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks
fever or fever lasting more than two days in a child of any age
that worsen or fail to improve
symptoms, such as headache or cough
Although many types of viruses can
cause a common cold, rhinoviruses are the most common culprit.
How does a cold virus enters the human
A cold virus enters your body through
your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when
someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks.
It also spreads by hand-to-hand
contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as
utensils, towels, toys or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth
after such contact or exposure, you're likely to catch a cold.
Your chances of
getting a cold
These factors can increase your
chances of getting a cold:
Age. Children younger than 6 are at
greatest risk of colds, especially if they spend time in child-care settings.
immune system. Having
a chronic illness or otherwise weakened immune system increases your risk.
of year. Both
children and adults are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter, but you
can get a cold anytime.
Smoking. You're more likely to catch a
cold and to have more-severe colds if you're exposed to cigarette smoke.
Exposure. If you're around many people,
such as at school or on an airplane, you're likely to be exposed to viruses
that cause colds.
There's no vaccine for the common
cold, but you can take commonsense precautions to slow the spread of cold
your hands. Clean
your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, and teach your children
the importance of hand-washing. If soap and water aren't available, use an
alcohol-based hand sanitize-rs.
your stuff. Clean
kitchen and bathroom counter-tops with disinfectant, especially when someone in
your family has a cold. Wash children's toys periodically.
tissues. Sneeze and
cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, then wash your hands
Teach children to sneeze or cough into the
bend of their elbow when they don't have a tissue. That way they cover their
mouths without using their hands.
share. Don't share
drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or
disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with
the name of the person with the cold.
clear of colds. Avoid
close contact with anyone who has a cold.
your child care center wisely. Look for a child care setting with good
hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping sick children at home.
care of yourself. Eating
well, getting exercise and enough sleep, and managing stress might help you
keep colds at bay.