Your complete online medical source

Navigate by theme:


Return to index

Chest and Respiratory Problems


Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

The common cold is brought to you by any one of 200 viruses. The symptoms of a cold include runny nose, red eyes, sneezing, sore throat, dry cough, headache, and general body aches. There is a gradual 1- or 2-day onset. As a cold progresses, the nasal mucus may thicken. This is the stage just before a cold dries up. A cold usually lasts about 1 or 2 weeks.

Colds occur throughout the year but are most common in late winter and early spring. The average child has 6 colds a year; adults have fewer.

Using a mouthwash will not prevent a cold, and antibiotics will not cure a cold. There is no cure for the common cold. If you catch a cold, treat the symptoms.

Sometimes a cold will lead to a bacterial infection (See Viral or Bacterial?) such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Good Home Treatment of colds can help prevent complications.

If a person seems to have a cold all the time, or if cold symptoms last 2 weeks or longer, suspect allergies (See Allergies) or sinusitis (See Sinusitis).


Top of Page

  • Eat well and get plenty of sleep and exercise to keep up your resistance.

  • Try to avoid people who have colds.

  • Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth, but cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

  • Wash your hands often, particularly when you are around people who have colds.

  • Humidify your bedrooms or your whole house if possible.

  • Don't smoke.

Home Treatment

Top of Page

Home Treatment for a cold will help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

When to Call a Health Professional

Top of Page

  • If you develop signs of a bacterial infection (see "Viral or Bacterial?" on See Viral or Bacterial?).

  • If you develop facial pain, fever, and other signs of sinusitis (See Sinusitis).

Top of Page