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What is a common cold?

A cold is a viral infection that affects the upper airway including the nose, pharynx, throat, airways, and lungs. The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system, including the nose, throat, sinuses, eustachian tubes, trachea, larynx, and bronchial tubes. Although over 200 different viruses can cause a cold, 30-50% are caused by a group known as

rhinoviruses. Almost all colds clear up in less than two weeks without complications.

Colds, sometimes called rhinovirus or coronavirus infections, are the most common illness to strike any part of the body. It is estimated that the average person has more than 50 colds during a lifetime. Anyone can get a cold, although pre-school and grade school children catch them more frequently than adolescents and adults. Repeated exposure to viruses causing colds creates partial immunity. The common cold is a mild viral infectious disease of the nose and throat, the upper respiratory system. Its symptoms are sneezing, sniffing, running/blocked nose (often these occur simultaneously, or one in each nostril), scratchy, sore, or phlegmy throat, coughing, headache, and a general feeling of unwellness; they typically last for 3 to 10 days. It is the most common of all diseases.

The common cold belongs to the upper respiratory tract infections. It is different from influenza, a more severe viral infection of the respiratory tract that shows the additional symptoms of rapidly rising fever, chills, and body and muscle aches. Colds are more easily transmitted through contact with the nose and eyes more frequently than through the mouth. People seem very concerned with kissing someone or sharing drinks with someone who has a cold, but they don't really think shaking hands with someone who has a cold is important, and in fact that is very important. The most common means of infection is not from sneezing or coughing, or walking barefoot in the rain, but from hand-to-hand contact. That is why washing your hands frequently when you have a cold is so important. If you are physically exhausted or overtired, also, the chances of you becoming a victim of the cold virus increase.

More information on common cold

What is a common cold? - The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. The common cold belongs to the upper respiratory tract infections.
What causes a common cold? - The common cold is caused by numerous viruses (mainly rhinoviruses, coronaviruses) infecting the upper respiratory system.
What're the risk factors for a common cold? - Children are especially susceptible to colds. The risk of respiratory infections is increased by exposure to cigarette smoke.
What're the complications of a common cold? - The common cold poses a risk for bronchitis and pneumonia in nursing home patients and other people who may be susceptible to infection.
What're the symptoms of colds? - Symptoms of the common cold include nasal discharge, obstruction of nasal breathing, swelling of the sinus membranes, sneezing, sore throat, cough and headache.
How is a common cold diagnosed? - Doctors are usually able to diagnose a cold from the typical symptoms. There are no laboratory tests readily available to detect the cold virus.
What's the treatment for a common cold? - There are no medicines that will cure the common cold. Colds are generally treated by addressing the person's symptoms.
How to prevent a common cold? - The best way to avoid a cold is to avoid close contact with existing sufferers, to thoroughly wash hands regularly, and to avoid touching the face.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005