A cold is a contagious viral infection of the mucous linings of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, and sinuses. More than 100 viruses can cause a cold. The virus particles spread through the air or from hand-to-hand (person-to-person) contact.
The incubation period is short, usually 18-24 hours, and onset is abrupt. Generally, a cold will begin with a scratchy sensation in the throat, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, low fever, and varying degrees of tiredness. Chilly sensation and mild headache are common. Vague and generalized body aches as well as cough can occur. Resolution of symptoms usually occurs in 4-14 days.
To help prevent colds:
Treatment of colds consists of treating the symptoms. Since a cold is viral in origin, antibiotics are not recommended since they may cause reactions that are worse than the cold.
General treatment measures include:
For nasal congestion, use a saline nasal spray. You can also use a decongestant such as Sudafed during the day. At night you may try a mild antihistamine such as Dimetane or Chlor-Trimeton as these can cause drowsiness.
For sore throats, gargle with salt water (1/2 to 1 tsp. salt in a glass of warm water), or honey & water (equal parts). Sucking on hard candy or throat lozenges can soothe the throat.
For cough, use a cough suppressant such as Robitussin.
A cold can lead to a more serious secondary bacterial infection. See your health care provider without delay if you:
CONTACT HEALTH SERVICE OR YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR CONCERNS.