Common cold

The common cold, also known simply as a cold, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that primarily affects the respiratory mucosa of the nose, throat, sinuses, and larynx.[6][8] Signs and symptoms may appear less than two days after exposure to the virus.[6] These may include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and fever.[3][4] People usually recover in seven to ten days,[3] but some symptoms may last up to three weeks.[7] Occasionally, those with other health problems may develop pneumonia.[3]

Common cold
Other namesCold, acute viral nasopharyngitis, nasopharyngitis, viral rhinitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza, head cold,[1] upper respiratory tract infection (URTI)[2]
A representation of the molecular surface of one variant of human rhinovirus
SpecialtyInfectious disease
SymptomsCough, sore throat, runny nose, fever[3][4]
ComplicationsUsually none, but occasionally otitis media, sinusitis, pneumonia and sepsis can occur[5]
Usual onset~2 days from exposure[6]
Duration1–3 weeks[3][7]
CausesViral (usually Rhinovirus)[8]
Diagnostic methodBased on symptoms
Differential diagnosisAllergic rhinitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis,[9] pertussis, sinusitis[5]
PreventionHand washing, face masks, cough etiquette, avoiding sick people[3][10]
TreatmentSymptomatic therapy,[3] zinc[11]
MedicationNSAIDs[12]
Frequency2–3 per year (adults); 6–8 per year (children)[13]

Well over 200 virus strains are implicated in causing the common cold, with rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses and enteroviruses being the most common.[14] They spread through the air during close contact with infected people or indirectly through contact with objects in the environment, followed by transfer to the mouth or nose.[3] Risk factors include going to child care facilities, not sleeping well, and psychological stress.[6] The symptoms are mostly due to the body's immune response to the infection rather than to tissue destruction by the viruses themselves.[15] The symptoms of influenza are similar to those of a cold, although usually more severe and less likely to include a runny nose.[6][16]

There is no vaccine for the common cold.[3] The primary methods of prevention are hand washing; not touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and staying away from sick people.[3] Some evidence supports the use of face masks.[10] There is also no cure, but the symptoms can be treated.[3] Zinc may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if started shortly after the onset of symptoms.[11] Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help with pain.[12] Antibiotics, however, should not be used, as all colds are caused by viruses,[17] and there is no good evidence that cough medicines are effective.[6][18]

The common cold is the most frequent infectious disease in humans.[19] Under normal circumstances, the average adult gets two to three colds a year, while the average child may get six to eight.[8][13] Infections occur more commonly during the winter.[3] These infections have existed throughout human history.[20]


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