Respiratory conditions: Common cold

Common cold is a mild viral infection affecting the throat, nose, sinuses and upper airways. The condition is quite common and typically clears up on its own within 1-2 weeks.

Symptoms of common cold

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Sneezing episodes

The more severe symptoms of common cold such as high temperature or fever, muscle aches and headache can also occur, but these tend to be linked with the flu.

Common cold

The individual should take some time to rest, drink plenty of fluids and stick with a healthy diet.

What to do for common cold?

Always bear in mind that there is no cure for common cold, but there are measures to observe while at home.

  • The individual should take some time to rest, drink plenty of fluids and stick with a healthy diet.
  • Provide the individual with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to minimize the discomfort or fever.
  • Gargle salt water or suck on menthol sweets
  • You can use decongestant tablets or sprays to relieve a clogged nose

Many decongestants and pain medications are readily available over-the-counter. These medications are generally safe for older children and adults to use but not suitable for infants, young children, pregnant women, individuals with underlying health conditions and those who are using other medications. If in doubt, it is best to consult a doctor first.

When to consult a doctor

If a child has a cold, there is no need to consult a doctor since it typically clears up within 1-2 weeks. A doctor should only be consulted for the following:

  • The symptoms lasts for more than 3 weeks
  • Symptoms become worse abruptly
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Complications of cold develop such as coughing up blood-streaked mucus or chest pain

It is also ideal to set an appointment with a doctor if worried about an infant or elderly or if the individual has a long-term illness such as a lung condition.

How does common cold spread?

Generally, an individual is considered contagious for a few days before the symptoms start until all the symptoms are gone. It simply means that in most cases, an individual is contagious for about 2 weeks.

One can acquire the virus from an infectious individual by inhaling droplets that contain the cold virus, especially if the individual sneezes or coughs. Other ways in which the virus spreads is via touching the skin of an individual who has infected droplets and then touching the nose or mouth and holding objects contaminated by the droplets.

Preventive measures

  • Always wash hands on a regular basis especially after touching the nose or mouth and before handling food.
  • When coughing or sneezing, always use a tissue to prevent the virus from spreading. Discard used tissues right away and wash hands.
  • All surfaces must be cleaned regularly so that they are free from germs
  • Avoid sharing toys or towels with an infected individual


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