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FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is a common cold?
A common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The cold can cause a sore throat, a stuffy or runny nose, coughing and sneezing. A common cold is typically not very serious and generally improves without treatment within a couple of days to a week.
What are the symptoms of a common cold?
The main symptoms of a common cold include a stuffy or runny nose, a sore throat, coughing, sneezing and a headache. These symptoms can last from a couple of days to around a week.
What causes a common cold?
A common cold is caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract and affect the nose, sinuses, throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx). There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a common cold, although rhinoviruses are the most common cause.
How is a common cold treated?
There is no cure for a common cold. Getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids may help recovery from a cold. Some over-the-counter pain relief medications and decongestants can also help to relieve some of the symptoms.
Will a common cold clear up on its own?
Common colds generally improve on their own within a couple of days to a week.
Is a common cold contagious?
Common colds are contagious as they are caused by viruses, which are easily spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person.
Can I catch a common cold from being cold?
Although common colds occur more frequently during the winter months, you cannot catch a cold just from being cold. Colds are caused by an infection with a virus.
Can a common cold be prevented?
While there are no certain ways of preventing a common cold, you can lower your chances of infection and of infecting others by washing your hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with people who have a cold.
About this article
Author: Dr Joanne Van der Velden PhD, BSc (Hons)
First answered: 17 Oct 2014
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Votes: 855 (Click smiley face below left to rate)
Category: The common cold