The common cold is a mild upper respiratory infection caused by viruses. Common colds are the most frequent acute illness in the U.S. and the industrialized world, and occur more frequently in winter and spring, but they can occur any time of year.
Common Cold Symptoms and Duration
A cold usually lasts about 7 to 10 days, but some symptoms, especially runny and stuffy nose and cough, can last for up to 2 weeks. A cold usually progresses through certain stages. The stages of a cold include four stages, as described in the table below.
|Stage 1: Incubation period
Stage 2: Appearance and progression of symptoms
Stage 3: Remission
|Stage 4: Recovery
What Causes a Cold?
Risk factors for catching a cold include:
- Close contact with someone who has a cold
- Season: certain viruses are more common during certain times of year
- Age: infants and young children have more colds each year than adults
How Is a Cold Diagnosed?
The common cold is diagnosed based upon a history of the patient’s reported symptoms and a physical examination.
Testing is not usually needed to diagnose a common cold.
Tests may be used to rule out other infections that cause similar symptoms to the common cold:
What Is the Treatment for a Cold?
There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics do not help treat colds caused by viruses.
Home remedies are usually used to help relieve symptoms of the common cold, such as:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to moisturize the air
- Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
- Saline nasal spray or drops to moisten nasal passages
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to relieve symptoms
- Lozenges to relieve sore throat (do not give lozenges to young children as they can be a choking hazard)