Common Cold (cont.)
Steven Doerr, MD
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Common cold facts
- What is the common cold, and what causes it?
- How is the common cold transmitted?
- What are risk factors for acquiring the common cold?
- What are the symptoms and signs of the common cold in adults, children, and infants? What is the incubation period of the common cold?
- Does it have anything to do with exposure to cold weather?
- What is the difference between the common cold and influenza (the flu)?
- How do physicians diagnose the common cold?
- What is the treatment for the common cold? Are there any home remedies for the common cold?
- Are antibiotics a suitable treatment for the common cold?
- When should a health-care professional be consulted?
- What is the prognosis for the common cold? What is the duration of the common cold?
- What are complications of the common cold?
- Is it possible to prevent the common cold?
- Common Cold FAQs
- Find a local Family Physician in your town
How is the common cold transmitted?
The common cold is spread either by direct contact with infected secretions from contaminated surfaces or by inhaling the airborne virus after individuals sneeze or cough. Person-to-person transmission often occurs when an individual who has a cold blows or touches their nose and then touches someone or something else. A healthy individual who then makes direct contact with these secretions can subsequently become infected, often after their contaminated hands make contact with their own eyes, nose, or mouth. A cold virus can live on objects such as pens, books, telephones, computer keyboards, and coffee cups for several hours and can thus be acquired from contact with these objects.
What are risk factors for acquiring the common cold?
There are various factors that may increase the chances of acquiring the common cold, including the following:
- Age: Infants and young children are more likely to develop the common cold because they have not yet developed immunity to many of the implicated viruses.
- Seasonal variation: Individuals more commonly acquire the common cold during the fall and winter, or during the rainy season (in warmer climates). This is felt to occur because people tend to stay indoors and are in closer proximity to one another.
- Weakened immune system: Individuals with a poorly functioning immune system are more likely to develop the common cold. Also, individuals with excessive fatigue or emotional distress may be more susceptible to catching the common cold.
What are the symptoms and signs of the common cold in adults, children, and infants? What is the incubation period of the common cold?
The symptoms of the common cold typically begin two to three days after acquiring the infection (incubation period), though this may vary depending on the type of virus causing the infection. Individuals also tend to be most contagious during the first two to three days of having symptoms. Symptoms and signs of the common cold may also vary depending on the virus responsible for the infection and may include
- nasal stuffiness or drainage,
- sore or scratchy throat,
- watery eyes,
- low-grade fever,
- body aches,
- loss of appetite,
The signs and symptoms of the common cold in infants and children are similar to those seen in adults. The cold may begin with a runny nose with clear nasal discharge, which later may become yellowish or greenish in color. Infants and children may also become more fussy and have decreased appetite.
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