Common cold


Lady with cold

Adults can get 2–4 colds per year

Anyone can get a cold at any time and they are very common:

  • children can get about 5–10 colds per year
  • adults can get 2–4 colds per year
  • children get more colds than adults because they are not immune to as many cold viruses as adults are.

Colds are caused by a virus. There are about 200 different viruses that can cause a cold and each one is slightly different. That is why you can get one cold after another. Once your immune system has fought off an infection with one particular cold virus, you will be immune to that virus. The cold is also called acute viral rhinosinusitis.

Find out about the medicines and treatments for relieving the symptoms of a cold.

The common cold is not the same as flu (influenza). Flu is caused by a completely different virus (influenza virus A or B), and has much more severe symptoms. However the cold virus can still make you feel unwell and is usually more than just a runny nose.

Latest information - common cold


(Corporate information)
14 Nov 2013 Free resources about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance to print, download and order for use at your workplace, school or home.
12 Nov 2013 Overuse and misuse of antibiotics has made it harder to treat many bacterial infections. NPS is asking all Australians to become ‘resistance fighters’ and join in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
(Consumer publication)
06 Nov 2013 If you have long-term lung problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be at a higher risk of complications from a cold, flu or other respiratory tract infection (RTI), and antibiotics may be an appropriate treatment for you.
(Media release)
09 Jul 2013 NPS MedicineWise is concerned that parents might still be reaching for cough and cold medicines for their children this winter, despite restrictions introduced for these medicines almost 12 months ago.
10 May 2013 Read about why antibiotics are not prescribed for colds and learn about different medicines available to relieve cold symptoms, including paracetamol, decongestants & nasal sprays. Also useful tips to relieve cold symptoms.
03 May 2013 Learn about over-the-counter cough medicines, including who should not take them, their side effects and effectiveness.
05 Dec 2012 Learn about over-the-counter combination cough and cold medicines, including who shouldn’t take them, their side effects and effectiveness.
(Corporate information)
27 Nov 2012 Current research projects and partnerships aimed at building a body of evidence for promoting good prescribing and quality use of medicines.
23 Aug 2012 If you have a cold, it's usually not necessary to see a doctor for a diagnosis. However, there are some exceptions, for example if you are asthmatic or diabetic. Read more here.
23 Aug 2012 Symptoms of the common cold include a sore throat, cough & sneezing. Read more about the symptoms of cold & how long the infection lasts for.