PDF 83 KB
Common cold factsheet - over 100 known cold viruses - spread by contact with droplets from the nose of infected people in air or on surfaces and objects
The common cold may be caused by any one of over 100 known cold viruses.
Getting a cold has nothing to do with being cold or chilled and there is no scientific evidence that ‘feeding a cold’ (or ‘starving a fever’) makes any difference to how long it lasts.
The common cold is spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air. The droplets in the air may be breathed in by those nearby. The common cold is also spread by indirect contact with hands, tissues or other articles soiled by nose and throat discharges.
Newborn babies are protected for about the first 6 months of life by antibodies from their mothers. After this, young children are very susceptible to colds because they:
It is not abnormal for children to have five or more colds a year.
It is a myth that people get colds because of a weakened immune system. Healthy people with normal immune systems will almost always become infected if the virus enters their noses – however, sometimes they may not develop any symptoms.
Fever is very uncommon, especially in people over 3 years of age. Most people will recover within 10 days.
The diagnosis is made on the presenting signs and symptoms. Laboratory tests are not necessary.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
1 to 3 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
From about 1 day before symptoms begin and for the first 5 days of the illness.
There is no specific antiviral treatment for the viruses which cause colds. However, paracetamol and other medications available from pharmacies may provide relief of symptoms. Do not give aspirin to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.