There are many more dangerous diseases in the world, but it is the most common ailment affecting the vast majority of the world’s population several times a year. The common cold takes its greatest toll in autumn, winter and early spring, and can greatly reduce the quality of daily life. Apart from discomfort, does it carry any health risks? Below we describe the causes, symptoms and treatments of the common cold.

 What is it? 

A cold refers to a set of symptoms characteristic of inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and paranasal sinuses, i.e. a runny nose, cough, sore throat and malaise. 



More than 200 species of viruses (mostly rhinoviruses, but also coronaviruses and others, including influenza viruses) are responsible for all these issues, which explains the high incidence of colds. A person can get sick several times a year! 


Cold mechanism 

We can catch a cold in several ways: 

– Droplet route – this is when the virus enters the body through the nose – when inhaling air with tiny droplets of infected secretions (from someone already ill who sneezes or coughs in our presence). 

– Through direct contact – by hugging, kissing or touching a person with a cold and objects they have come into contact with. 

– Oral route – some viruses can be present in food. 



A cold starts with a feeling of malaise and dryness in the nose due to the invasion of mucous membrane by viruses. Then comes a sore throat, hoarseness, runny nose and sneezing. After about 2 days, the throat stops hurting, but the watery catarrh thickens and turns yellow or green, and sometimes a cough develops. A subfebrile state (body temperature elevated to 37-38 degrees) is also possible, most commonly in children. 

Symptoms last up to a week, culminating on day 3-4. After this, the cold begins to subside, although in some patients the cough/catarrh can continue for another two weeks. 


What’s the treatment? 

There is no cold medicine. It is a viral infection, so antibiotics are of no use! 

All you can do is to alleviate the annoying symptoms of a cold by: 

– Resting and not straining the body (lying in bed, taking time off from work/school if possible). 

– Hydrating the body, especially in case of a raised body temperature. 

– Inhalations with warm, humidified air. 

– Taking painkillers and antipyretics as recommended on the leaflet. 

– Using products that constrict the nasal mucous membranes and help cough up bronchial secretions. 


Traditional home remedies known for generations are also invaluable in the fight against the common cold. The most popular ones include: 

– Tea with vitamin-C-rich lemon, honey full of micronutrients and warming ginger. 

– Hot milk sweetened with honey and enriched with bactericidal garlic. 

– An infusion of lime, elderflower and chamomile. 


Or is it the flu? 

The flu, or influenza, is more than that. Typical symptoms include muscle and joint pain, a characteristic headache with pain in the forehead and eye area, a raised temperature above 38 degrees, a persistent cough and a congested nose, often without catarrh. 


When to see a doctor? 

You may start feeling worse instead of better. Consultation with a doctor is absolutely necessary when: 

– cold symptoms do not go away and resemble the flu, 

– fever returns after several days of improvement, 

– shortness of breath develops, 

– coughed up secretions are stained with blood, 

– pain develops in the chest, 

– the heart starts beating irregularly, 

– there is impaired consciousness, convulsions, and blood pressure drops. 


The common cold must not be underestimated in people with chronic illnesses, the elderly and young children. They should always see their GP. 

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