Because there are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold, the human body can never build up resistance to all of them. This is why colds are so common and often return. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), adults get 2–3 colds per year, and children may have up to 12 per year.

The common cold is contagious; it can be spread by air droplets from coughs and sneezes and by touching infected surfaces. It is contagious from 1–2 days before symptoms begin until the symptoms have stopped.

Fast facts on colds

Here are some key points about colds. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Common cold symptoms include dry or sore throat, blocked or runny nose, and sneezing.
  • Around a quarter of people do not experience symptoms when infected with a cold.
  • Up to half of common colds are caused by a group of viruses referred to as rhinoviruses.
  • Complications of the common cold include acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • People with lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more vulnerable to colds than other people.


The symptoms of the common cold are the body’s reaction to the cold virus. It triggers the release of chemicals such as histamine from mast cell, making the blood vessels leak, causing the mucous glands to work harder.

The most common symptoms of a cold are:

  • dry throat
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • mild feve
  • sneezing
  • hoarse voice
  • blocked nose
  • mild fever

Rarer symptoms of a cold include:

  • muscle aches
  • shivering
  • pink eye
  • weakness
  • reduction in appetite
  • extreme exhaustion

Some people do not suffer any symptoms when infected with the cold virus, perhaps because their immune system reacts differently to the virus. Sometimes, bacteria can infect the ears or sinuses during this viral infection — this is known as a secondary bacterial infection — and can be treated with antibiotics


The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. Around 50 percent of colds are caused by rhinoviruses, other cold-causing viruses include:

When a virus manages to overpower the body’s immune system, infection occurs. The first line of defense is mucus, which is produced in the nose and throat by the mucus glands. This mucus traps anything inhaled, such as dust, viruses, and bacteria. Mucus is a slippery fluid that the membranes of the nose, mouth, throat, and vagina produce.

When the mucus is penetrated by the virus, the virus then enters a cell, the virus takes control and uses the cell’s machinery to manufacture more viruses, and these viruses then attack surrounding cells.

Risk factors

Some people are more susceptible to the common cold than others, including:

  • children under 6 years
  • older adults
  • individuals with weak immune systems
  • smokers

Anyone who has been around infected individuals is also at risk; for instance in crowded places such as  at school, in churches etc. Also, people are more susceptible to colds in rainy  $ in cold seasons in, but they can occur at any time of the year.


Common complication associated with common cold;

Acute Bronchitis

This occurs when the bronchi (small tubes) in the lungs are inflamed as a result of either a bacterial or viral infection.

Antibiotic should be use if the cause is bacterial; if it is viral, it is common just to treat the symptoms until the infection goes away with time since antibiotics do not effect a virus.Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and sputum.


Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. If pneumonia occurs as a complication of a cold, it is most likely to be bacterial, antibiotics are  prescribed.

Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

This is when bacteria infect the sinuses. Nasal and oral decongestants can be used to manage symptoms; however, antibiotics are required to treat the condition and to prevent further infection, which could lead to other conditions, such as bacterial meningitis in rare cases.

Symptoms include headache, aching sinuses, and nasal discharge.

Other complications of the common cold include:

People with the following conditions can be vulnerable to the common cold:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – this includes both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The common cold can exacerbate emphysema or chronic bronchitis symptoms, leading to increased coughing and shortness of breath.

Asthma – common cold is common trigger of asthma.


Handwashing is an important way of reducing the spread of cold.

As there are so many viruses that can cause a cold, it is difficult to develop a vaccine.

However, there are some precautions that can help avoid catching the common cold. These include:

  • Avoid close contact with someone infected with a cold.
  • Eat plenty of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables to help keep the immune system strong.
  •  Discard the tissue carefully and wash your hands.
  • If you sneeze into your hands, make sure you wash them with soap and water immediately.
  • If you have no tissues or a handkerchief, cough into the inside (crook) of your elbow rather than your hands.
  • Keep surfaces in your home clean — especially in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your nose and mouth.


It is important to realize that both antibiotics and antiviral medications are ineffective against most viruses that cause the common cold. A cold normally lasts up to 10 days; however, some symptoms can stay as long as 3 weeks.

Although there is no real way of treating or curing a common cold, the following measures may help ease the symptoms:

  • Drinks plenty of fluids and keep well hydrated, to avoid worsening of the symptoms.
  • Get plenty of bed rest; it is important to get as much sleep/rest as possible while the immune system is fighting off the virus.
  • Take , acetaminophen/paracetamal, or ibuprofen to relieve headache or fever.
  • antihistamine such as cetrizine  to relieve symptoms
  • Some people find that inhaling steam helps ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.
  • other  home remmedies such as honey, fresh prepared lemon juice and ginger.

Honey has better clearance of cough symptoms, it soothes throat and it has antibacterial properties.


Doc bob

Am Robert Mathenge, a healthcare provider in Nakuru county. i love this profession as it gives me chance to serve my call, interacting with people from various social backgrounds makes me feel good.

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