Common Cold

Basic Information
Description

A contagious viral infection of the upper-respiratory pas- sages including the nose, throat, sinuses, ears, eustachi- an tubes, trachea, larynx, bronchial tubes.

Frequent Signs and Symptoms
  • Runny or stuffy nose. Nasal discharge is watery at first, then becomes thick and yellow
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Cough that produces little or no sputum
  • Low fever
  • Fatigue
  • Watering eyes
  • Appetite loss
Causes

Any of at least 100 viruses. Virus particles spread through the air or from person-to-person contact, espe- cially hand-shaking.

Risk Increases With
  • Winter (colds are most frequent in cold weather)
  • Children attending school or day care
  • Household member who has cold
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions
  • Infection may be facilitated by stress, fatigue or allergic disorders
Preventive Measures
  • To prevent spreading a cold to others, avoid unnecessary contact during the contagious phase (first 2 to 4 days)
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or before handling food
  • Avoid crowded places when possible, especially during the winter
  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C
Expected Outcomes

Spontaneous recovery in 7 to 14 days.

Possible Complications

Bacterial infections of the ears, throat, sinuses or lungs.

Treatment
General Measures
  • To relieve nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water) by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution into each nostril.
  • Use a cool-mist, ultrasonic humidifier to increase air moisture. Clean humidifier daily
  • For a baby too young to blow his or her nose, use an infant nasal aspirator. If mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution (see above) into each nostril

Don’t insert cotton swabs into a child’s nostrils. Instead, catch the discharge outside the nostril on a tissue or swab, roll it around and pull the discharge out of the nose.

Medications
  • No medicine, including antibiotics, can cure the common cold. To relieve symptoms, you may use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, decongestants, nose drops or sprays, cough remedies and throat lozenges
  • Stronger pain medicine or a muscle relaxant may be prescribed
  • Vitamin C in large doses (up to 1000 mg a day) may help shorten the duration
Activity

Bed rest is not necessary, but avoid vigorous activity. Rest often.

Diet

Regular diet. Drink extra fluids, including water, fruit juice, tea and carbonated drinks.

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