- Colds are viral infections of the respiratory tract.
- Symptoms can include sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat and coughing.
- Anyone can get a cold at any time and they are very common.
- Colds rarely cause serious harm, but they can make you feel unwell.
Colds are caused by viruses. 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.
How common are colds?
Colds are very common, in fact:
- 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.
Symptoms of a common cold
Cold symptoms can include:
- a sore throat
- a blocked or runny nose
- a cough.
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.
Colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won't help. Antibiotics do not kill viruses.
Most people who have a cold will get better without antibiotics, because their immune system will take care of the infection on its own.
Find out about the medicines and treatments for relieving the symptoms of a cold.