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A cold is a mild viral infection of the the upper respiratory tract.


The common cold is caused by a large number of different viruses. More than 200 viruses can cause the common cold, but most colds are caused by the rhinovirus.

Babies and preschool children are especially susceptible to the common cold. Healthy adults can also expect to have a few colds each year.


Most people should expect recover from a common cold in about a week.

The following are common symptoms of colds;

  • Sore throat, usually the first symptom
  • Clear, watery nasal drainage
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Congestion
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild fatigue


You may treat the symptoms of cold yourself at home by;

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to replace those lost
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Using steam inhalation. Steam inhalation involves sitting  over a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over the head, breathe deeply. Avoid getting the hot steam in the eyes
  • Gargling with salt water may help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat and nasal congestion
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen which may help relieve the symptoms of a cold

Treatment for babies and children

Treatment for the common cold in babies and children involves reducing their symptoms;

  • Provide plenty of fluids and use steam inhalation to clear congestion
  • Vapour rubs can help soothe the symptoms of a cold in babies and young children
  • Nasal saline drops or sprays may help relieve the symptoms of nasal congestion in babies and young children
  • Very young babies should be taken to a doctor at the first sign of a cold because of the risk of pneumonia

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