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A head cold is an infection of your upper respiratory tract caused by a virus. Any one of 200 viruses can cause the common cold, so you may experience a wide variety of symptoms 1. There are not as many viruses that cause the flu, which is why there are vaccines against the flu, but not against the common cold 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Symptoms of a head cold usually appear one to three days after exposure. The most common symptoms include sore throat, itchy throat, runny nose, congestion and cough. You may experience fever or body aches, sneezing, watery eyes or mild fatigue.
Dry, Itchy Throat and Runny Nose
Most head colds are mild, but they are the leading reason for doctor visits and missed days of school and work. About a billion cases of head and chest colds occur each year in the United States. Colds are more common among children than among adults, because a child’s immune system isn’t fully developed yet. Children tend to get sicker from a head cold than adults, and they develop complications such as ear infections and sinus infections more often than adults do.
- Most head colds are mild, but they are the leading reason for doctor visits and missed days of school and work.
- Colds are more common among children than among adults, because a child’s immune system isn’t fully developed yet.
When to See a Doctor
An adult should seek medical attention for a fever higher than 102 F. If you have aches, chills, noticeably swollen glands, severe sinus pain or a cough with colored phlegm, call your doctor. For a child, seek medical attention for a fever higher than 103 F or a fever that lasts more than three days. If your child is unusually sleepy, having difficulty breathing or complaining of ear pain, call the doctor right away.
Flu Symptoms in a 16 Month Old
There is no cure for the common cold 1. The best you can do is to treat the symptoms while your body works to fight off the virus. Rest is very important, especially while you have a fever. Resting allows your body to fight off infection. Drink a lot of fluids, especially water and clear liquids. Fluids help loosen mucus and prevent dehydration. Avoid smoking or second-hand smoke. Gargling with warm salt water may give you some relief from sore throat pain. Over-the-counter cold medicines may help relieve symptoms, but will not bring recovery any faster.
- There is no cure for the common cold 1.
- Gargling with warm salt water may give you some relief from sore throat pain.
Most adults have two to four head colds a year; most children get six to 10 colds a year. Washing your hands frequently helps stop the spread of germs. Eating healthily, exercising and getting adequate rest can help prevent colds, because they help boost your immune system.
Dry, Itchy Throat and Runny Nose
Flu Symptoms in a 16 Month Old
What Are the Causes of Chills & Feeling Very Cold?
Seal-Like Cough in Children
High Fever of 103.5 in Children
What Is the Difference Between the Flu & a Virus?
Flu Symptoms in a 3 Year Old
Causes of Fever, Headache and Dry Cough
High Fever and a Loss of Appetite in Children
Influenza Virus Characteristics
- Mayo Clinic - the Common Cold
- American Lung Association. (2019). Facts About The Common Cold.
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- FDA. (2018). Use Caution When Giving Cough and Cold Products to Kids.
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- Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM Jr. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Dec;161(12):1140-6.
- Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;(1):CD000980. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4
- Karsch-Volk M, Barrett B, Kiefer D, Bauer R, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Linde K. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Feb 20;(2):CD000530. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub3
- Sexton DJ, McClain MT. (2019). The common cold in adults: Treatment and prevention. Hirsch MS, Aronson MD, eds. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc.
Valerie Dansereau has experience writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her writing career began with writing stories for confession magazines. She has written a wide variety of online articles about health, home business, parenting and self-help. She attended Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts and has over 20 years of banking experience, including writing loan operations manuals for two banks.