Symptoms of the common cold

The common cold is the name given to the symptoms produced when the nose, throat and sinuses are infected by air-borne germs. With the average adult suffering from at least two colds a year and children suffering from anywhere up to ten (yes, ten!), there’s a reason why it’s called common.

If you’re sniffling and sneezing like nobody’s business, whilst nursing a blocked nose and a sore throat, chances are you have a cold. Unfortunately, there is no one-stop cure to rid your body of the virus, but you can treat your symptoms with over the counter remedies, lots of fluids and plenty of self-care and TLC.

Read below if you would like to know what causes a cold, what medicine you can buy over the counter to help treat your symptoms, and what you can do to reduce your risk of catching a cold in future.

What causes a cold?

Colds are caused by viruses which enter the body, usually through your nose or mouth. There are many different viruses which cause colds, the most common of which is the rhinovirus. The viruses which cause a cold affect your respiratory system, which then produces mucous to defend itself, which in turn makes you congested, stuffed up and generally a little bit miserable.

Cold viruses are usually transmitted from contact with infected surfaces, which is why it is so important to practice good hand washing. If you come in contact with a cold virus - for example on a door handle - and then touch your mouth or nose, the virus can then enter your body.

What are the symptoms of a cold?

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny/blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Tiredness

Colds do not usually cause a high temperature, so if you are running a fever there is a chance that you may have an infection or the flu.

Symptoms usually begin three days after you are infected and can last anywhere up to ten days. If your cold symptoms persist past two weeks, contact your doctor to make sure you don’t have a bacterial infection.

How to stop the spread of a cold?

You are most infectious during the first three days of a cold, though you can still spread the virus for up to ten days.

Reduce other people’s risk of catching your cold by practicing Good Cold Etiquette:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, especially after you sneeze
  • Cover your mouth with your hand when you sneeze or cough
  • Dispose of tissues correctly
  • Avoid people who have compromised immune systems for the duration of your cold

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

You have probably heard dozens of people declare that they have the flu, when all that they are suffering from is a runny nose and a mild cough. The flu is a very serious illness, especially in people who are older, pregnant or suffering from an ongoing medical condition. It is also very dangerous to young children, especially infants.

The easiest way to know if you have the flu and not a cold, is to check how you feel. If, as well as the above symptoms, you are running a temperature, are so fatigued that you struggle to get out of bed, and are suffering from muscle aches, you most likely have the flu.

Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have been infected with the flu virus and try to stay at home to avoid infecting other people.

What can I do to treat a cold?

There is no medication that will rid your body of the virus which causes a cold, but you can treat your symptoms.

As well as resting and plenty of fluids, you can also:

  • Use pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to treat your sore throat
  • Use decongestants or saline sprays to clear a blocked nose
  • Use cough bottles; some help to clear the mucous from your chest, whilst others help to dry up secretions. Speak to your CarePlus Pharmacist if you are unsure which is best for you

There are some restrictions on the sale of decongestant medications and not all medications are suitable for some people; ask in store for advice. Remember, antibiotics will not help you if you have a cold.

Click here for more information on how to treat the common cold.

If you need advice on what you can take to help ease your symptoms, call into any CarePlus Pharmacy today, our friendly pharmacists will guide you through what is available to treat your cold over-the-counter.