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.

Common cold

Related information - common cold


24 Jun 2015 Antibiotics are not always necessary for treating coughs, colds and flu. Find out how you can manage your cough, cold or flu without antibiotics.
(Media release)
21 May 2015 The 'Winter is Coming' initiative urges people to make a renewed pledge to help fight antibiotic resistance this cold and flu season. Read more.
(Media release)
14 Aug 2014 With news this week that winter flu season is in full swing, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians that for most people, resting and treating the symptoms is the best course of action when you have a cold or flu — and that’s because flu is caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t help.
30 Jul 2014 Combination cough and cold medicines are generally not recommended for use while you are breastfeeding. Read more.
25 Jul 2014 Symptoms of the common cold include a sore throat, cough & sneezing. Read more about the symptoms of cold & how long the infection lasts for.
(Media release)
24 Jun 2014 As cold and flu season gets into full swing, NPS MedicineWise is warning that a lack of understanding about when to use antibiotics — and a desire to get back to work faster after a cold or flu — could be contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance in Australia.
For health professionals (Health professional publication)
15 May 2014 A growing body of evidence suggests a role for oral zinc supplements – if used soon after symptom onset – to shorten the duration of the common cold. However, questions still remain about formulation, side effects, optimal dose and applicability across different patient populations.
(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.