Common colds are infectious diseases of the upper airways that are generally characterised by a sore throat and often accompanied by other symptoms including a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and a fever. There are well over 200 types of viruses that cause common cold. These are transmitted from person to person through sneezing, coughing and hand contact.
Common colds are usually self-limited; they tend to resolve spontaneously within one to three weeks. There is no specific treatment for colds it is important to note that antibiotics are useless against common colds. Most treatments are aimed at relieving the symptoms, for example, paracetamol or lozenges to ease a sore throat and nasal drops to ease a blocked nose.
Colds can sometimes develop into chest infections, which may need active treatment. Such cases would have severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever and sharp chest pains. In such situations seeing a doctor is encouraged. In young children, it is important to visit the doctor if there are signs of dehydration (e.g. reduced number of wet nappies, drowsiness), or if the parents are worried about their child’s condition.
It is extremely difficult to prevent common colds. Vitamin supplements have not been shown to be effective against colds. Flu injections are also not effective, as they are only directed against the influenza virus.