The best way to treat common cold

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


Winter is the perfect time to take a refreshing break from busy life. However, many people hate the cold and its symptoms—sore throat, runny nose, and coughing.

Though the common cold is seen in throughout the year, the outbreak increases in the winter season.  The cold environment in the winter season will support the spread of cold viruses. What are these cold viruses? Are they the same as the flu or COVID-19?

The short answer is that it is not.

Definition of Common Cold

It is an upper airway system viral infection that is caused by a group of viruses called cold viruses that include rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, and adenoviruses.

The common cold is characterized by sneezing, a runny nose, and a cough. The typical symptoms last for about a week, but some people experience them for longer than that.

The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe discomfort.

Causes of the Common Cold

There are many different factors that can contribute to having a cold. Some common causes of the common cold are as follows:

  • Being exposed to the cold virus
  • Spending time in cold environments

However, not everyone who is exposed to the cold virus will develop a cold. Additionally, not everyone who is infected with the flu will develop the common cold.

The virus enters through your nose or mouth, and once it is inside your body, it begins to multiply. Flu is not a subtype of a common cold though both are causing disease in the respiratory tract. These are caused by different viruses.

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, while the common cold is caused by one of many different viruses.

  • Rhinovirus (Commonest)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Adenovirus
  • RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Paramyxoviruses

The cold is caused by a virus that infects the cells lining your nose, throat, and sinuses.

You can Submit cold by breathing in contaminated droplets from someone else with the virus or touching contaminated surfaces.

Worldwide, about 50 million people get at least one cold every year. Each year, about 800,000 people are hospitalized, and more than 100,000 of those people die from it. Adults can experience 2–3 colds per year, and children are a source of infection most of the time.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

The symptoms of the common cold can range in severity from a mild case to a full-blown illness.

The symptoms include:

  • Cold symptoms such as sneezing and coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chills or fever
  • Muscle ache/stiffness in one or more joints
  • Rash on the skin, especially around the neck or behind the ears (mild)
  • Nausea/vomiting (mild).

The common cold is contagious and spreads through contact with an infected person’s nasal mucus or saliva.

The patient is highly infectious in the first 24 hours. The virus can also be transmitted by touching surfaces or objects contaminated by secretions from someone who has just coughed or sneezed on them.

The cold-like illness can mimic the common cold. The most common causes of cold-like illnesses are

  • Flu
  • COVID-19

Both are two different infections from the common cold. High-grade fever, muscle pain, chills, and rigors are prominent features of the flu and COVID-19 infection.

Thus, if you have the above prominent features with cold symptoms, it is best to visit a doctor to decide on the treatment. The doctor may prescribe antivirals if needed.

The Common Cold: Course of the Disease

The common cold is an acute viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that causes inflammation and congestion of the sinuses and nasal passages.

There are 3 stages of the common cold that cannot be separated exactly.

Stage 1: First Three Days

The common cold typically starts with a sore throat and a dry cough. This sore throat appears soon following an infection. It is said that it will take roughly 10 hours of time to Submit sore throat.

This period is also known as the incubation period.

Stage 2: Four to Seven Days

This is the symptomatic stage of the common cold where the patient exhibits symptoms. The patient may have a runny nose, sneezing, headache, or fever.

Body Aches and a runny nose are troublesome features. Plenty of rest and hydration with hot liquids is all you need right now!

Stage 3: Eight to Ten Days

The common cold typically has a typical course of seven to ten days. It usually starts with symptoms similar to those of the flu, such as a low-grade fever, runny nose, and sore throat, and the symptoms may reduce during this period.

Complications may include a persistent cough, asthma, earaches, and sinus headaches.

If the symptoms are present and the fever is rising after this period, it could be due to pneumonia.

Thus, any symptoms that persist after the 10th day of the disease need to be evaluated properly by a doctor.

Who are at Risk of Getting the Common Cold?

Pre-school Age

The disease is easily transmitted in children, especially in the age group of 3 to 6 years.

High Exposure

The cold virus spreads through close contact with infected people or through contaminated surfaces like door handles and desks.

Thus, it is important to follow precautions like proper hand hygiene and wearing a mask in public places.

Winter Season

The cold environment will allow the spread of the cold viruses. During this season, as people live indoors, the common cold can be easily transmitted.

Cigarette Smoking

This is a risk factor as smoking can interfere with defense mechanisms in the respiratory mucosa. Thus, viruses may multiply on it and cause lower respiratory tract infections as well.

Immunocompromised State

If someone has a weak immune system due to diseases, organ transplants, or chemotherapy, there is a high chance of getting frequent colds.

Complications of the Common Cold

Once infected, the virus can spread from secretions to other parts of the body.

The complications of the common cold include:


This is an infection of the sinuses caused by a virus. It may cause pain behind your eyes or in your ears, and it may make you feel feverish.


This is an infection of the airway caused by viruses. The incubation period of viral illness is about 2 days.

The inflammation of smooth muscle tissue in your airways will cause shortness of breath or wheezing with coughs and post-bronchodilator wheezing. These will be diagnosed as bronchitis or asthma.


This is an inflammation of the alveolar spaces in your lungs caused by bacteria or viruses. You may have chest pain or feel tired after you have pneumonia, but it is rare for these symptoms to be severe enough to require hospitalization (although they can be treated at home).

Ear Infections

Otitis media, or middle ear infections with pus discharge, can occur 7 to 10 days following a common cold. It can be due to a bacterial or viral infection that needs medical advice.

Secondary Bacterial Infection

Bacterial pneumonia, bronchitis, and tonsillitis are common following viral infections. If the symptoms persist for more than 7 days, it is best to see a medical practitioner.

Common Cold Treatment Methods

The common cold is a viral infection that can cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, and cough. It’s very uncomfortable and can make you feel pretty miserable.

The common cold has no special treatments, only symptomatic management.

There are several approaches to treating the common cold, but here are the two most common ways of treating common cold symptoms.

Home Remedies

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially warm ones! You should drink about 8 cups (or 1 litre) of fluids daily, including water, juice, or other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Get plenty of rest and stay home if you’re feeling under the weather!
  • Try eating an apple or orange; they contain vitamin C, which helps prevent colds from developing by boosting your immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
  • Coffee: Drinking coffee will boost your immune system as it stimulates your body’s natural killer cells.
  • Add honey: This helps stimulate your sore throat as well as open up your airways.
  • Steam bath: sitting on a stool while in a hot steam room relaxes your muscles and loosens up mucus in your chest area.
  • Nasal rinsing with saltwater: This helps wash away mucus.

Over-The-Counter Medicine

There are many different cold medicines available over the counter, and they can be helpful in relieving symptoms. However, it is important to remember that these medicines will not cure the cold or shorten the duration of the illness.

Additionally, some cold medicines can have side effects, so it is important to read the label carefully before taking them.

Many over-the-counter cold medicines like Sudafed (decongestants) and loratidine (antihistamines) will help to reduce congestion and clear a person’s throat.

They can also help to relieve a runny nose. However, it is important to remember that these medicines will not make the common cold go away any faster.

Cold Prevention

A common cold is caused by viruses, which are small viruses that live in the mucus of your nose. It’s usually caused by an infected person sneezing or coughing, but it can also be spread via kissing or touching objects that have come into contact with saliva.

Common colds are extremely contagious and affect about two-thirds of people who are exposed to them. Symptoms typically last for three to five days and can make you feel miserable.

When someone sneezes or coughs, viruses can spread in the air as droplets.

When someone touches an object that has the virus on it and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes, it can infect another.

The virus is most often spread in the winter months because it thrives in dry air.

  • Washing Hands Frequently And Avoiding Touching The Facial Area
  • Getting Enough Sleep And Fluids
  • Avoid Contact With Sick People And Share Utensils.
  • Using Tissues To Cover Your Mouth When You Cough Or Sneeze, Sneeze On To Your Inner Aspect Of The Elbow.
  • Staying Home From Work If You Are Feeling Ill And Maintaining Hand Hygine
  • Exercising Daily For At Least 30 Minutes: Brisk Walking, Cycling, Swimming
  • Eat Healthy: Eat Food With Vitamins Rich In E And C

When to See the Doctor

The common cold can last for up to two weeks and is more common in the winter months.

The symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory infections, such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, and cough.

It may also cause fever, sneezing, and a runny nose.

  • If you have a fever or feel unwell for more than seven days, you should see your doctor.
  • If you feel light-headed
  • Wheezing and trouble breathing
  • Chest pain that increases with breathing
  • Ear pain with or without discharge
  • Severe vomiting are symptoms that you should see your doctor.

TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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