Common cold

Colds are very common. As an adult, you are likely to get two to four colds each year. Children tend to catch colds more frequently than adults because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, or they are more exposed to colds e.g. daycare centres and can get anywhere from five to 10 colds annually.

It’s important to note that colds are very different to the flu (influenza) and caused by different viruses.

There are more than 200 different types of viruses that can cause the common cold.

Symptoms of colds include:

  • coughing
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • sneezing
  • blocked or runny nose
  • general congestion.

Symptoms can be mild to moderately severe and normally last up to a week.

Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for a cold.

The best way to prevent getting or spreading a cold is by practicing good hygiene. You can do this by:

  • covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or coughing/sneezing into the inside of your arm if you don’t have a tissue available
  • throwing tissues in the bin after you use them
  • washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze, and using alcohol-based hand cleaners
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent spreading germs
  • washing your hands before preparing food
  • trying to avoid close contact with people who have colds
  • staying home from work or school if you have a cold and limiting contact with other people to keep from infecting them
  • washing your child’s toys frequently to remove traces of any viruses
  • keeping your child home if unwell

If you’re concerned about your symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor. You can also speak to your chemist about over-the-counter treatments.  Antibiotics do not treat the common cold.