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Common cold and cough

The common cold is a highly contiguous virus that infects your nose and throat. Colds are very common especially in children. You can expect a child to get a cold six to 10 times a year if in daycare or school; adults typically get a cold two to four times a year. Although it is usually harmless, with symptoms that include a runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, mild headache, low-grade fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, congestion, and cough, it may not feel so harmless. There is no cure for the common cold (it is not treatable with antibiotics) and most people will recover in approximately a week or two. Through self-care measures, including getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids, you may feel more comfortable as your body fights off the infection.


Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated can help replace fluids you lose producing mucus or from a fever. Ensuring you consume enough liquids may help you feel better and get over the cold more quickly.

  • You can drink water, juice, clear broth, or even clear, non-caffeinated soft drinks.
  • Avoid coffee or caffeinated teas and soft drinks because they can cause dehydration and exacerbate your symptoms.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products can exacerbate the symptoms of a cold. Avoiding these products while you are sick may make you feel better and reduce the duration of your symptoms.

Gargle with a saltwater solution. Rinsing with a simple solution of salt water can keep help relieve a sore and scratchy throat.Although the benefits are temporary, you can use this remedy as often as you need it to help yourself feel better.

  • Make a salt solution by dissolving 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of salt in 4 – 8 oz of warm water.
  • Gargle the solution, being careful not to swallow.

Soothe with throat lozenges or sprays. Throat lozenges or sprays containing mild analgesics can help soothe a sore throat. Products that have eucalyptus or camphor may also help to relieve congestion.

  • Suck on throat lozenges or use sprays every two to three hours, or according to the package or your doctor’s directions.
  • Suck on the throat lozenge until it is completely gone. Don’t try to chew it or swallow it whole, which can numb your throat and cause swallowing difficulties.
  • You can buy throat lozenges and sprays at most pharmacies and some grocery stores and larger retailers.

Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Sleep in a bedroom that is comfortable, warm, and slightly humid. By controlling factors such as the temperature and humidity, having comfortable bedding, and keeping air circulating, you may help relieve the symptoms of a cold.

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air, which can help relieve congestion and coughing. Make sure to clean the humidifier to prevent mold or bacteria growth.
  • Breathing in steam from running a hot shower in a closed bathroom can help ease congestion.
  • Use a fan to keep air circulating or open a window if it is not cold outside.

See your doctor. A cold will usually resolve on its own and does not require a visit to the doctor. There are, however, some circumstances in which you should see your doctor. These include:

  • If there is no improvement of your cold symptoms after sometime.
  • If you have a sore throat and a fever with no cold symptoms, you may have strep throat, a bacterial infection that requires an antibiotic.
  • If you experience any of the following symptoms: high fever (over 101.3°F or 38.5°C for adults), severe or worsening symptoms, severe headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing. These symptoms indicate you may be developing or have a secondary infection such as pneumonia, sinusitis or ear infection.

Wash hands often and thoroughly. One of the most effective ways to prevent a cold is by proper hand-washing techniques. This minimizes the spread of bacteria and the flu virus from surfaces that many people touch.

  • Wash your hands in warm water with a mild soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Make sure to wash your hands after touching anything in crowded places, such as handles on public transportation.

Cover your nose and mouth with tissues. Always cover both your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow to avoid contaminating your hands.

  • Make sure to discard the tissue right away and then wash your hands.
  • Covering your nose and mouth minimizes the risk of spreading your cold to those around you.
  • Encourage others to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Avoid crowded spaces as much as possible. Colds are very contagious, especially for children, and spreads most easily in places where there are large crowds of people. Minimizing time in crowded spaces may reduce your risk of getting a cold.

  • Avoid contact with infected individuals. Do not share utensils and other personal objects with someone who has a cold.
  • If you have a cold, stay home to reduce the risk of spreading it to others.

Disinfect surfaces and spaces. Germs spread easily in shared spaces such as bathrooms or on kitchen surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting these spaces frequently may help prevent spreading the cold to other members of your family or your friends and colleagues.

  • Focus on spaces that everyone in your vicinity uses. This includes the toilet, bathroom sink, kitchen counters, and the kitchen sink. You may also want to disinfect door handles.
  • You can use any type of surface disinfectant available commercially.
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