Common cold

The common cold

What is the common cold?

The common cold is the name given to a contagious viral disease which infects the soft lining of the nose and throat. This infection leads, in turn, to the most characteristic symptoms of a cold, the runny nose and sore throat.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Sometimes it can be quite difficult to tell the difference between the common cold and the flu because many of the symptoms are similar. However, there are differences, as outlined below:

Is the common cold contagious?

Yes. A person is deemed to be contagious from the day before the cold breaks out until two to three days after they recover. The infection is spread through the air by means of droplets from the infected person when they sneeze or cough.

Can 'catching a cold' be avoided?

Most people believe that it is virtually impossible to avoid 'catching' a cold, particularly during the winter months. However, there are a couple of steps which can be taken to minimise the risk of coming into contact with the virus which causes the common cold. These include:

Is it necessary to visit the doctor?

No, except in very rare cases. The symptoms of the common cold will usually disappear within a week or two and, provided there are no other symptoms or complications, there should be no reason to visit your local GP. Since the common cold is caused by a virus, it does not respond to antibiotic treatment.

What should I do if I have a cold?

Unlike influenza, where bed rest is strongly advised, there should be no reason to curtail daily activities if suffering from the common cold. However, do recognise your limits and expect to become tired and worn out more easily. Other guidelines to follow include:

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