Common cold – symptoms, causes, risk factors and complications

Common cold

This is one of the most known kinds of infections which can affect every single person on the planet Earth; When you suffer from common cold, then this means that you have an infection which is on your throat and nose. This is a type of viral infection. This kind of infection affects the upper respiratory tract. This is not harmful disease even we think it is. There are many types of viruses which can lead to common cold. When your children are under the age of 6, then they have increased chances to get colds. [1,2] Also the chances of getting cold if you are adult are not excluded. Usually, adults get 2 to 3 common colds per year. There is a period in which people should recover from it. Usually it is one week but also there are some cases when people get better after ten days. People who smoke have symptoms which last longer compared with people who do not smoke. If you have noticed that your symptoms are not improved in a week or ten days, then you must talk with your doctor about your condition.

Symptoms of common cold

When someone is exposed to cold – causing virus, then he or she can feel the symptoms of the common cold after one or three days. There are many signs and symptoms of the common cold that can vary from person to person. Here are the signs and symptoms of the common cold:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Generally feeling unwell (malaise)
  • Sneezing
  • Slight body aches or a mild headaches
  • Low – grade fever

When you suffer from common cold, then you can notice that the discharge from your nose is green or yellow in color and also it is thicker. But this does not mean that your cold is a result from the bacterial infection. If you are adult and you have some symptoms such as severe sore throat, sinus pain or headaches, shortness of breath, fever greater than 38.5 C (101.3 F), wheezing or fever lasting five days or more or this disease is returning after a fever – free period, then you must talk with your doctor. He or she will tell you which are the best natural remedies or medications for your condition. When children suffer from common cold, then usually they do not need to visit doctor. But if your child has some symptoms such as ear pain, wheezing, extreme fussiness, lack of appetite, unusual drowsiness, fever of 38 C (100.4 F) in newborn up to twelve weeks, severe symptoms such as cough or headache, symptoms that worsen or fail to improve or rising fever or fever lasting more than two days in a child of any age, then you should take your doctor and visit his or her doctor. He or she will tell you which the best way to rid of the common cold of your child is.

Common cold

Causes of common cold

There are many kinds of viruses which can lead to common cold. The most common type of virus which leads to common cold is the rhinoviruses. This kind of virus enters in your body through the nose, eyes or mouth. The droplets in the air can spread this kind of virus when someone who is sick starts to talk, sneezes or coughs. Also when you talk the hand of someone who is sick you can get this disease. Also if you share some objects with the person who is sick such as toys, telephones, utensils and towels, then you can also get the cold. [2,3] If you had this contact and then you touch your nose, mouth or eyes, then you have the biggest chances to get common cold.

Risk factors: There are some factors which can increase your risk of getting cold such as

  • Smoking: People who smoke have severe colds. [4]
  • Age: If your child is under 6 years old, then he or she has the biggest risk of getting cold. [1]
  • Exposure: If you are in an airplane or school where many people are, then you can easily get common cold. [2,3]
  • Time of year: In the fall and winter we have the biggest chances to get colds, but we can also get in other time of the year. [5]
  • Weakened immune system: When our immune system is weak, then we can easily get cold. [6]

Complications: Here are the complications which we can have if we get cold:

  • Asthma: The cold can trigger asthma attack. [7]
  • Acute ear infection: When the bacteria enter in the space behind the eardrum, then we can have acute ear infection. [8]
  • Acute sinusitis: If the common cold is not resolved, then it can lead to acute sinusitis.


[1] Ball TM, Holberg CJ, Aldous MB. Influence of attendance at day care on the common cold from birth through 13 years of age. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2002;156(2):121-6. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.2.121

[2] University of Rochester Medical Center. Exposure to school-age children ups severity of cold infections. Science Daily. 2012. Retrieved from

[3] Barker J, Stevens D, Bloomfield SF. Spread and prevention of some common viral infections in community facilities and domestic homes. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2001;91(1):7-21.

[4] Zhou G, Liu H, He M, et al. Smoking, leisure-time exercise and frequency of self-reported common cold among the general population in northeastern China: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2018;18.

[5] Harvard University. The reason for the season: why flu strikes in winter. 2014. Retrieved from

[6] University Of Calgary. Common cold symptoms caused by immune system — Not the cold virus. Science Daily. 2008. Retrieved from

[7] Hemilä H. Vitamin C and common cold-induced asthma: a systematic review and statistical analysis. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2013;9.

[8] Allan M, Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ. 2014;186(3):190–9. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442


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