The Common Cold or Something More?

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The “common cold” is the most frequent acute illness in the United States. It is caused by several different viruses. The common cold will resolve on its own after several days. Some of the symptoms that occur are nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, low grade fever, headache and feeling tired. A low-grade fever is a temperature of 101 or less.

People generally don’t present with symptoms of the common cold for 24 to 72 hours after they have come in contact with the virus. Colds will generally last 3-10 days in most people, but if they have other conditions such as asthma, COPD, or history of smoking they can become sicker than otherwise healthy people because it will worsen symptoms of their chronic disease. The common cold can also lead to other conditions such as an ear infection.

The majority of common colds are transmitted by hand contact. The viruses may remain active on human skin for up to two hours. It’s important to wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer regularly this time of year. The common cold is treated with rest, plenty of fluids, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and other over the counter medications. Antibiotics are not indicated for the common cold and do not improve symptoms. If your symptoms are more severe, or you have increased risk due to other chronic disease you should see your primary care practitioner.

Daniel Palmer, PA-C

Wayne Community Health Center


Sexton, D., & McClain, M. (2018). The common cold in adults: Treatment and prevention. UpToDate. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from

Sexton, D., & McClain, M. (2018). The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and clinical features. UpToDate. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from

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