Common Cold

Common Cold

What is a Cold

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. There are over 200 different viruses that can cause a cold, but the most common one is the rhinovirus.


Symptoms of cold can vary depending on the strain of virus that caused it.

Some people even refer to their symptoms as more in the head (think, runny or stuffed nose), or more in the chest (like coughing); these are where the terms ‘head cold’ and ‘chest cold’ come from.

Common cold symptoms include:

  • Stuffed or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Mild tiredness or fatigue

Cold vs Flu

There is sometimes overlap between the symptoms of the cold and the flu, but in general flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.

A mild to high fever, chills, and severe fatigue also separate the flu from the common cold.


There are over 200 different viruses that can cause the common cold, the most common one being the rhinovirus. Since colds are viral infections, they are highly contagious.

Can you catch a cold from being cold?

You can only get infected (catch a cold) from an infected person, so you cannot get infected simply by being in a cold environment.

That being said, the viruses that cause colds thrive in colder, less-humid weather; this is why colds are often caught during the colder months of the year.


Since the cold is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t be effective at treating it. However, there are medications to help relieve congestion, sore throat, aches, and other cold symptoms.

For severe or persisting cold symptoms, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

When to See a Medical Doctor

In most cases, a cold will clear up in about 7-10 days without the need for medical intervention. Although, if symptoms are particularly bad and relief is desired, a doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication.

However, depending on age, speaking to a doctor may become important.


Speak to a doctor if you experience:

  • A high fever
  • Fever for 5 days or more
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Extremely sore throat
  • Severe headache or sinus pain


Parents should seek medical treatment for their child if they have:

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks
  • Fever lasting more than 2 days
  • Symptoms persist, and don’t improve
  • Severe chough or headache
  • Wheezing
  • Ear pain
  • Extreme fussiness
  • Unexplained drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite