(Viral Rhinitis; Upper Respiratory Tract Infection; URI)
DefinitionThe common cold is an infection that can irritate your nose and throat.
|Sore Throat Due to Inflammation|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesThe common cold is caused by a virus. There are over 200 different viruses that can cause a cold.
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of a cold include:
- Being near someone who has a cold
- Touching your nose, mouth, or eyes with contaminated fingers
- Decreased resistance, which can be caused by smoking , second-hand smoke, or stress
- Allergies or asthma
- Shorter sleep duration or poor sleep quality
SymptomsA cold may cause:
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Itchy, stuffed sensation in the ears
- Watery eyes
- Aches and pains
- Low energy
DiagnosisThe diagnosis is most often based on your symptoms. Generally, tests are not needed to make a diagnosis unless another condition is suspected, such as pneumonia .
TreatmentA cold usually lasts 10 days or longer. There are no cures for a cold, but treatments can relieve your symptoms. These include:
Home CareTo make you more comfortable:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Warm beverages like tea and chicken soup are soothing. They may also help decrease congestion.
- Use a humidifier. A cool-mist humidifier will keep your nasal passages moist. Humidifiers may also loosen congestion. Be sure to clean the humidifier every day.
- Try nasal flushing with a neti-pot or saline spray. This can help loosen mucus. You can buy these items at most pharmacies
- Gargle with warm salt water. It can help soothe a sore throat.
Over-the-Counter MedicationsTo relieve aches, pains, and fever consider non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prescription antiviral medication is usually not necessary.Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin. Cough and cold medications include:
- Throat lozenges
- Vapor rub
Alternative TreatmentsMany people use alternative treatments to relieve their cold symptoms. Some of the more popular choices include:
- Vitamin C —Taking extra vitamin C at the start of a cold has not been shown to be of any benefit. Some believe that taking vitamin C throughout the cold season may help reduce symptoms or shorten how long the cold lasts.
- Zinc lozenges—Taking zinc lozenges at the start of a cold may help shorten the length of the cold.
- Echinacea —Echinacea might help people to recover faster from a cold. But, there is little evidence that it can prevent colds if taken in advance.
- Honey —While honey has not been shown to affect the severity or length of a common cold, it may improve nighttime cough and sleep disruption in children. Do not give honey to infants younger than 12 months because of the risk of infant botulism.
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