Common Colds

What is a Cold?

A cold, also referred to as the common cold, is a viral infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). Colds are usually harmless, although it may not always feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a cold, but the most common offenders are called rhinoviruses. The cold virus usually enters the body through the mouth, eyes or nose – and it can spread through droplets in the cold when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Hand-to-hand contact with a sick person can also cause the cold to spread.

Risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood to catch a cold include:

  • Being young (children younger than 6 face the greatest risk)
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Fall and winter seasons, though a cold can occur at any time
  • Smoking
  • Direct exposure to the cold virus, such as being in a crowded place for a prolonged period of time

Symptoms of Cold

The common symptoms of a cold typically show up one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Signs and symptoms, which can vary from person to person, might include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Generally just not feeling well

Treatment for Colds

There is no direct cure for the common cold, but there are treatment that can help make the symptoms more tolerable as the cold runs its course. Options include:

  • Over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen
  • Decongestant nasal sprays
  • Cough syrups

The best way to treat cold is to prevent it in the first place. Of note, improper hand hygiene is the most common way the cold is spread. Washing hands can help protect you from the germs you may pick up from touching public objects, such as doors or office supplies. If soap and water are not immediately available to you, use an alcohol-based hand rub to kill off any lingering germs.

Medical Assistance for Colds

There’s usually no need to visit the doctor for a cold, but there are certain times when adults and children should seek medical attention. This is because cold-like symptoms may actually be symptom of something worse. These circumstances can include:


  • Having a fever higher than 101.3 F
  • Fever that lasts longer than five days, or a fever that returns after initially going away
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Severe headache, sore throat or sinus pain


  • Fever higher than 100.4F in newborns up to 12 weeks
  • A fever that keeps going up or fever that lasts for longer than two days in a child of any age
  • Having symptoms that don’t get better
  • Ear pain
  • Wheezing
  • Extreme irritability
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unusual drowsiness

Common Cold Treatment at Adena Health System

A cold that persists for more than a 7-10 days may require medical attention. For more information about treatment of colds and other primary care services, request an appointment with one of Adena’s board-certified primary care physicians.

Primary care physicians are trained to look at you holistically and determine the root of your health problems. If you are having a health problem, they will order tests and consultations, if needed, a specialist. In a day and age when personal connections with healthcare providers continue to become more challenging, Adena primary care physicians are taking steps to increase your access to them and in turn for you to receive the most personal care possible.

Need help finding a Primary Care Provider? Search Adena Health System online or call 740-779-FIND (3463).

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