The common cold is also known as an 'upper respiratory tract infection'. It is a common viral infection which can cause a sore throat, a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, coughing, mild fever, tiredness, watery eyes and a slight headache. The symptoms of a common cold appear gradually two to three days after initial infection.Colds are more widespread during the winter months: during the cold weather people tend to stay indoors more and colds are more easily spread in closed environments. The common cold can not be caught by sitting in a draught or by being cold or wet. Colds are infectious; they are most contagious in their early stages.CausesColds are caused by viruses. Viruses can be released into the air in tiny airborne droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. These airborne droplets circulate and can then enter another person's body through their mouth, nose or eyes. Viruses can also be passed by close contact. If you shake someone's hand after they have sneezed or wiped their nose and then put your fingers in your mouth, then this can spread the virus.

Avoiding Colds

Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.Avoid close contact with someone suffering from a cold.If you have a cold, sneeze and cough into a handkerchief and try and keep away from others to help prevent the spread of infection.


There is no cure for colds but they do usually disappear after a week without treatment.Antibiotics will not help to cure a cold: they are used to fight infections caused by bacteria or fungi, not viruses.Simple pain relief treatments containing either aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to ease aches and pains and reduce fever.Pastilles or lozenges can ease a sore throat. Simply increasing the amount of saliva produced in the mouth helps to soothe the throat. Some contain anaesthetics, which numb pain. Gargling with soluble aspirin solution can also help to ease a sore throat. A blocked nose or blocked sinuses can be relieved by decongestants, which reduce swelling. Many people find that menthol steam inhalations also help to relieve congestion.Different types of coughs should be treated in different ways. A dry, tickly cough needs a suppressant cough mixture and a chesty cough which produces phlegm (mucus) needs an expectorant cough mixture. Ask for a separate leaflet on coughs.Petroleum jelly (soft paraffin) can soothe a sore nose and chapped lips.Many cold remedies contain a variety of ingredients to treat the many symptoms of a cold.Drink plenty of fluid, rest and keep warm.To prevent the spread of infection, sneeze and cough into a handkerchief and keep away from others.

When To See A Doctor

If your cold does not improve after a week or if you develop any worrying symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Additional Information

Information about 'flu and coughs are also available from this pharmacy.