Cough and cold

Cough and cold are the most common transmittable diseases that an adult has about two to three times a year. The paediatric population may have these illnesses more than three times a year. Cough and cold are infections caused by many types of viruses in your nose and throat. Rhinoviruses are the most frequent viruses that cause cough and cold; however, these are usually harmless. Most of us get recover from cough and cold in a week or 10 days.[1,2]

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Most people have cough and cold in spring and winter, although you may get affected by cough and cold during any time of the year. Symptoms of cough and cold appear sudden. An infected person can spread a cold and cough from a distance of six feet. Symptoms of cough and cold are listed below:[1-3]

  1. Sore throat

  2. Stuffy or runny nose

  3. Congestion

  4. Coughing usually dry

  5. Chills

  6. Fatigue

  7. Sneezing

  8. Headaches

  9. Body aches including muscle aches and joint aches

  10. Low-grade fever

  11. Nausea, diarrhoea or vomiting commonly in children than in adults

  12. People with weak immunity, respiratory conditions or asthma may develop certain other serious illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

Causes And Risk Factors


As informed above, cough and cold are caused by various types of influenza viruses that infect your nose, throat, and lungs. These influenza viruses spread from person to person when people with cough and cold, talk or sneeze or cough. Sneezing, coughing, and talking by an infected person send virus-containing droplets in air that may go into the noses or mouths of people who are standing or sitting nearby. You can get cough and cold by touching the objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and after that touching your own eyes, mouth, or nose.

You can spread the cough and cold before you come to know that you are sick, starting 1 day before your symptoms develop and 5–7 days after your sickness. Certain people, particularly people with weak immune systems and young children, may infect others for a longer time.[1,2]

Risk Factors

Cough and cold can be a serious condition for the person having other illnesses and certain such illnesses, which are listed below:[3]

  1. Chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchiectasis, COPD, or cystic fibrosis

  2. Chronic kidney disease

  3. Heart disease

  4. Chronic metabolic disorders such as diabetes

  5. Severe anaemia, including sickle cell anaemia

  6. Morbid obesity

  7. Diseases (HIV) or treatments (chemotherapy, steroids) that weaken immunity

  8. Liver disorders

  9. Adolescents and children who are on long-term aspirin therapy.


As cough and cold spread from person to person or come in contact with an infected person below preventive methods can help you to reduce the risk of getting cough and cold:[1]

Wash your hands more often with soap for 20 s. If you are not able to use soap or water then you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. This help to wash out the virus present on your hands before entering your body via the mouth or eyes or nose.

  1. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with infected hands

  2. Make a proper distance from the people having cough and cold

  3. You can prevent others from getting the infection from you with the below points:

  4. When you are sick, stay at home

  5. Keep your children out of day-care or school when they are sick

  6. Avoid closely coming in contact with others such as kissing, hugging, or shaking hands

  7. Make a distance from people before sneezing or coughing

  8. Use a tissue paper to cough and sneeze and throw it away after, or you can sneeze or cough into the upper shirt sleeve by completely covering your nose and mouth

  9. Properly wash hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose

  10. Frequently disinfect touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, toys, and mobile


Generally, you are not required to go to a doctor to make the diagnosis of cough and cold. You can diagnose the illnesses on your own by knowing the abovementioned symptoms.[4]

Below are the symptoms when you require to consult a doctor:

When symptoms worsen or do not improve

  1. Ear pain

  2. Shortness of breath or trouble in breathing

  3. Tender swollen glands of your neck

  4. Wheezing

  5. Skin rash

  6. Severe sore throat that is more painful and has yellow or white spots

  7. Sever painful coughing

  8. Shaking chills

  9. Increasing temperature or fever lasting more than two days in the children or children of any age

  10. Headache lasting for many days

  11. Blue lips, skin and/or nails

  12. Loss of appetite or you are feeling any type of confusion


For cough and cold, no specific treatment is there or required. However, many remedies are listed below and over-the-counter drugs can be used to ease your symptoms.[1,5]

Home Remedies

  1. Taking some fluids such as juice, water, clear broth, or lukewarm water mixed with a small amount of honey loosens congestion and helps you to stay hydrated.

  2. Take proper rest to heal

  3. Gargles with lukewarm saltwater is an effective approach to get temporary relief from a scratchy or sore throat. Dissolve 1/2 to ¼ salt in a cup of warm water. In children younger than six years who are not able to do gargle, parents can try sore throat sprays, ice chips, hard candy, or lozenges. You should be careful with hard candies and lozenges as these can cause choking in children. Therefore, it is advised to avoid the use of hard candy and lozenges.

  4. For relief from stuffiness and congestion, over-the-counter saline nasal sprays and drops are used frequently.

  5. You can try warm liquids like tea, warm apple juice or chicken soup to increase mucus flow and get relief from congestion.

Cool-mist vaporizers or humidifiers are used to moisten your home which helps to loosen congestion. You should change the water on a daily basis and clean the unit as per the instruction by the manufacturers.

To clear the mucus in young children, you can use a rubber suction bulb for clearing mucus.

Over-the-Counter Medications

For body pain, the below medications are used for different age groups:

  1. Acetaminophen in children 6 months or younger.

  2. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen in children 6 months or older

  3. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin in adults.

You should always be careful when giving any medication to children because there are many medications that are not recommended for use in the paediatric population. Aspirin should be used with caution in children. Teenagers and children recovering from flu-like symptoms or chickenpox are not recommended to take aspirin as aspirin is linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in these children.

For non-productive cough, you can take a cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan (Delsym or Robitussin DM). For productive cough, you can take cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan and expectorant (plain guaifenesin syrup or Mucinex tablets)

For nasal stuffiness, you can take saline nasal sprays or steroid nasal sprays. You can also use topical spray (oxymetazoline) for a maximum of three to four days.

For an itchy and runny nose, you can use nasal steroid sprays or an antihistamine (Benadryl) or loratadine.

For sore throat, you can suck hard candies, popsicles or lozenges. You can also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also try throat sprays.

There are certain medications that do not work for cough and cold:

  1. Antibiotics do not work in cough and cold, because these is viral diseases and antibiotics kill bacteria. Therefore, avoid using antibiotics when you have a cough and cold.

  2. In children, before using any over-the-counter medication, ask your doctor. These medications can cause life-threatening problems in children.

There are some remedies that are commonly used for cough and cold but no scientific evidence is present for those remedies:

Vitamin C does not prevent cough and cold in the average person, though vitamin C may reduce the duration of your symptoms.

There on mixed results on the use of echinacea some studies show that echinacea prevents cold symptoms while other studies show no benefit from it. Echinacea is effective when started from the just appearing of symptoms and taken for 10 days continuously. Echinacea is safe in adults and it has the capability to interact with many drugs, therefore, you should consult your doctor before taking Echinacea especially when you are on other drugs.

The use of zinc on cough and cold also has mixed results. Some researches show that zinc syrup or lozenges lessen the duration of a cold by approximately one day, especially when used within 24 to 48 hours of the first symptoms/sign of a cold. Zinc has many side effects, therefore, you should talk to your doctor before taking it.


Although cough and cold is not a serious condition, certain lifestyle-related changes may ease the symptoms:[6]

  1. You should eat a balanced diet and take proper nutrients.

  2. You should not eat dairy products because these can thicken phlegm.

  3. You should avoid alcohol because it weakens your immune system.


  1. CDC. Available at: Accessed on July 14, 2021. (

  2. CDC. Available at:,7%20days%20after%20becoming%20sick. Accessed on July 14, 2021. (,7%20days%20after%20becoming%20sick)

  3. American Lung Association. Available at: Accessed on July 14, 2021. (

  4. Ministry of Health Manatu Hauora. Available at: Accessed on July 14, 2021. (

  5. Pacific Lutheran University. Accessed on July 14, 2021. (

  6. Student Health Care Centre University of Florida. Accessed on July 14, 2021. (


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