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A contagious viral infection of the upper-respiratory passages1, very common in children.

Signs & Symptons

  • Running nose or blocked nose. Nasal discharge is watery at first and then becomes thick and greenish yellow.
  • Sore throat
  • Cough that produces little or no sputum
  • Low fever
  • Fatigue
  • Watering eyes
  • Appetite loss


Any of at least 200 viruses. Virus particles spread through the air or from person-to-person.

Risk Increases with

  • Fatigue or overexertion(studies)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to cold, wet weather
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.


  • To prevent spreading a cold to others, avoid unnecessary contact during the contagious phase (first 2 to 4 days)
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or before handling food
  • Cover the nose & mouth while sneezing or coughing.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Typical symptoms
  • History and examination by a doctor
  • Your doctor may order a laboratory throat culture to rule out bacterial infection with streptococcus or other bacteria.

Possible Complications

Bacterial infections of the ears, throat, sinuses or lungs.

Probable Outcomes

Spontaneous recovery in 7 to 14 days.


General Measures

  • To relieve nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water). Decongestant nasal drops are not to be used as they become habit forming
  • For a baby too young to blow his nose, use an infant nasal aspirator. If mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution (see above) into each nostril
  • For an infant or very young child, lay the child on his stomach to sleep. This improves nasal drainage and breathing.


  • No medicine, including antibiotics, can cure the common cold. To relieve symptoms, you may use non-prescription drugs, such as paracetamol, decongestants, nose drops or sprays, cough remedies and throat lozenges.
  • Vitamin C in large doses (up to 500 mg a day) may shorten duration but not without a doctor’s advise


Bed rest is not necessary, but avoid vigorous playful activity


Give extra fluids, including water and fruit juice.

Contact your Doctor

Your child gets any of the following during the illness:

  • Increased throat pain, or white or yellow spots on the tonsils or other parts of the throat.
  • Coughing episodes that last longer than intervals between coughing; cough that produces thick, yellow-green or gray sputum; cough that lasts longer than 10 days; or difficult or labored breathing between coughing bouts.
  • You cannot distinguish a common cold from the flu.
  • Fever that lasts several days.
  • Chills or rigors.
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Earache or headache.
  • Skin rash.
  • Pain in the teeth or over the sinuses.
  • Unusual lethargy.
  • Unusual irritability.
  • Enlarged, painful glands in the neck.
  • Inability to bottle-feed or breast-feed, if an infant.