The common cold is a general term used for a group of minor, highly contagious viral infections of the nose and throat. Even though it is not fatal, a cold can cause serious complications in fragile individuals.
Over 200 strains of viruses cause colds and are transmitted from person to person by direct contact, through the air or via contaminated objects.
Common symptoms include headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, nasal and sinus congestion, mild fever, fatigue, general achiness and cold sores.
Symptoms usually develop one to two days after viral infection and reach their peak between the second and fourth day. Symptoms generally last seven to 11 days.
Recovery is spontaneous, although longer in smokers. Call a doctor if cold symptoms persist beyond two weeks, especially if they worsen.
Coupling physical rest with home remedies and over-the-counter medicines is usually sufficient to get rid of a cold within two weeks. Antibiotics don't treat the cold itself.
For prevention, wash your hands often, limit your interaction with people with colds and avoid sharing drinking glasses.