The common cold is an infection that can irritate your nose and throat.
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The common cold is caused by a virus. There are over 200 different viruses that can cause a cold.
Factors that may increase your chance of a cold include:
A cold may cause:
The diagnosis is most often based on your symptoms. Generally, tests are not needed to make a diagnosis unless another condition is suspected, such as pneumonia.
A cold usually lasts 10 days or longer. There are no cures for a cold, but treatments can ease symptoms. These include:
To make you more comfortable:
To relieve aches, pains, and fever consider non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prescription antiviral medication is usually not necessary.
Note: Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
Cough and cold remedies include:
Note: Cough and cold medications should not be used in children under 2 years old, and they are not recommended in children under 4 years old. The US Food and Drug Administration has not completed its review regarding the safety of over-the-counter cough and cold medications in children ages 2-11 years. Rare, but serious side effects have been reported.
Decongestant pills or nasal sprays can shrink nasal passages. They also decrease mucus production. Nasal sprays should only be used for 2-3 days. Longer use can lead to increased congestion when you stop using the product.
Many people use alternative treatments to relieve their cold symptoms. Some of the more popular choices include:
Note: Some supplements and herbal treatments may not be pure. Many can also interact with prescription medications and over-the-counter products. Talk to your doctor before using any of these products.
The most important way to keep from getting or spreading a cold is by washing your hands. Wash your hands well and often. Other ways to keep from getting a cold:
American Lung Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
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Last reviewed August 2017 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 2/3/2015