Colds: Causes, Symptoms and treatments

In most people, colds are relatively harmless, but they have important social and economic impact. It is estimated that 40% of time lost from work and 30% of school absences are due to the common cold. Cold symptoms normally improve within 1 week, although some may last longer, especially in children.


  • Despite its name, colds are not caused by being exposed to the cold. Instead, common colds are infectious, and are passed from one person to another.The average adult gets about 2 to 3 colds per year, most often during the winter. Children may have 8 to 12 colds in a year because their body’s defences aren’t as developed.
  • The cold is usually transmitted by coming into contact with hands contaminated with nasal secretions, such as by shaking an infected person’s hand and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Sneezing or coughing can also transmit the cold virus in droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose. Since cold viruses can live for several hours on hard surfaces, less commonly you can even get infected by picking up an object, turning a door handle, or answering a phone recently touched by a person with a cold. It then takes hold by being rubbed into the eyes, nose, or mouth.


  • Cold viruses infect the tissues that line the inside of the mouth, throat, and nose.These infected membranes become swollen or inflamed, and cold symptoms begin.
  • It usually takes anywhere from 1 to 3 days for symptoms to develop. The cold usually runs its course in about 7 to 14 days. Common symptoms include:
  • Dry, scratchy, or sore throat that usually resolves quickly
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Sneezing triggered by nasal congestion
  • Slight fever and chills (more common in children than adults)
  • Coughing, usually dry at first but later can be accompanied by sputum and phlegm
  • Colds may aggravate the symptoms of other conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease (COPD).Colds can also lead to acute bacterial bronchitis, strep throat, pneumonia, or ear infections, especially for people with lung disease.
  • Fatigue, stress, or poor diet and poor health can result in more severe cold symptoms. Seniors especially tend to get more severe cold virus infections.
  • The cold virus can also infect other parts of the body. For instance, the eye infection known as pinkeye(mild conjunctivitis) can occur. Kids are especially prone to this, since they tend to wipe their noses with their hands and then rub their eyes.

Treatment and Prevention:


Since there’s no cure, a combination of coping strategies and medication can at least improve symptoms and keep you more comfortable.

  • Bed rest for a day or two can help you feel better. While it won’t clear up the cold any faster, staying in bed will avoid spreading it to others.
  • If you are suffering with a cold, you should keep comfortably warm and drink plenty of fluids. Hot fluids (such as chicken broth) can cut down on congestion.
  • For a sore throat, a warm saltwater gargle may help. Humidifiers can keep the air moist in an effort to soothe coughs.
  • The best way to prevent the common cold is to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after touching objects that may have the virus on them and before preparing food or eating
  • You can also avoid close contact with people who have colds, especially for the first few days.


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