The common cold is the most common illness seen by family physicians every year. It is caused by a virus that inflames the lining of the nose and throat. People usually have colds during fall and winter as more people are indoors and close to each other.
A cold will start two or three days after the virus enters the body. It may last for several days to a week. The following are the symptoms of the common cold:
The common cold is highly contagious. A person with a cold coughs or sneezes in the air and releases tiny drops that contain the virus. Another person who inhales these tiny drops may catch the cold. Colds can also be spread by hand-to-hand contact.
A cold and the flu (influenza) are different illnesses. A cold is usually mild and harmless; it will clear up by itself after a few days or a week. The flu on the other hand can lead to a severe complication, such as pneumonia. The major differences between the common cold and flu are the following:
Children suffer more colds each year than adults. The immune system is not fully developed in children and they are not able to fight off the viruses easily. Children are also in close contact with other children at their school or day care center.
The best way to avoid catching the common cold is to avoid being near someone who has the symptoms of the cold. You should also wash your hands frequently. If you are around people with colds, avoid shaking hands, and do not touch your nose or eyes. People with colds should cough or sneeze in facial tissue or their elbow.