What is a Common Cold (Viral Rhinitis)?

Harvard Publications

Common cold, also called viral rhinitis, is one of human infectious diseases. Infection is typically normal, healing without medication. Because to the vast number of people who catch the common cold, this condition results in more than 22 million days of missing school and even more days away from work in the United States per year. The average American has 1-3 colds a year.

Common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by many virus families. About 200 unique viruses have been identified among these families that can cause common cold. The most cold-causing virus family is called rhinovirus. Rhinoviruses cause up to 40% of colds, and this group of viruses includes at least 100 distinct types of viruses. Coronavirus, adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus are other significant upper respiratory virus families. Because too many viruses can cause cold symptoms, a common cold vaccine was not produced.

Rhinoviruses triggers most early fall and spring colds. Some viruses appear to trigger winter colds and can weaken their symptoms. There’s no proof that in snowy or humid weather you’re more likely to catch a snowy.

Symptoms of

Common cold allows symptoms to be quickly identified by patients and physicians. About 50 % of patients would experience a sore throat, frequently the first symptom to show as it can start as early as 10 hours following infection. Congestion in the nose and sinuses, runny nose, and sneezing follows. Hoarseness and cough may also develop and last longer than most symptoms, often for weeks. Strong fevers are uncommon with cold.

Diagnosis of

Most people diagnose common cold by the effects of runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. Usually, you don’t need to visit a healthcare provider. If you experience high fever, serious sinus pain, ear pain, shortness of breath or excessive wheezing, see a doctor. There are signs that indicate you have anything but cold or cold infection.

Planned time

Symptoms usually peak on second, third or fourth infection days and last around 1 week. People are most contagious (likely to spread the cold to others) within the disease’s first 24 hours, and typically remain contagious for as long as the symptoms last. Up to 25 % of patients will have chronic symptoms, such as nagging cough, which may last for many weeks. For a limited number of people, cold congestion can cause another disease to take root, such as middle-ear bacterial infection or sinuses. Respiratory problems including bronchitis or asthma may cause symptoms that last a month or longer.

Prevention: Prevention

Most common cold is spread by those affected through direct contact with germs from the nose, lips, or coughed or sneezed droplets, typically through hand-to-hand contact. Virus particles are transferred from one person’s hand to another. The second party then brushes his or her eyes or rubs his or her nose, spreading the virus there where a new infection will start. Contacting a surface such as a tabletop or doorknob previously touched by an infected person and then contacting your eyes or nose might get infected. These viruses can also transmit by inhaling particles from the air after a human coughed or sneezed.

To prevent catching or spreading cold, it also helps disinfect your face, properly dispose of all used tissues, and prevent scratching your eyes and nose. Where practicable, near, extended proximity to people with colds should be avoided. Typically about half of a person’s family members get sick. Colds are commonly distributed in classrooms and daycare centres.

Those who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to cold compared to people who sleep at least 7 hours a night. People who exercise regularly, particularly those who exercise everyday, often have less colds each year than those less involved.


While medical treatments can relieve common cold symptoms, they do not prevent, cure or shorten disease. Drink enough liquid, relax, and treat the symptoms to feel as healthy as possible.

Warm salt water will soothe a sore throat. Inhaling steam can temporarily boost nasal congestion. Over-the-counter cold treatments providing a decongestant can help dry and alleviate pressure. These treatments will also relieve cough if mucus in the throat causes cough.

It’s important to note that antibiotics don’t cure the common cold or shorten the time symptoms continue.

Vitamin C and echinacea (a commonly used herbal therapy) have been widely rumoured to decrease the risk of common cold and shorten symptoms, although no definitive evidence has proven this to be valid. Zinc-containing products marketed for common cold treatment remain popular. Some studies indicate that zinc lozenges can shorten symptoms, but questions remain about the best and safest dosage.

A small number of patients with common cold develop middle-ear, sinus, or lung bacterial infections. If you have high fever, ear pain, extreme sinus pain, wheezing or shortness of breath, you should visit the doctor and make sure you have no more serious illness.


Common cold is a moderate, self-improving illness within a week. However, certain patients may experience symptoms that last several weeks, and after common cold, a limited percentage of people may develop bacterial ears, sinus or lung infections.

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