What is it and how can I treat it?

Colds can be caused by hundreds of different types of virus. About half of all colds are cause by rhinoviruses. On average, adults have two to five colds each year and school-age children can have up to eight colds a year. Children usually carry more of the virus, for longer. The first symptom is often a sore or irritated throat.  The main symptoms of a cold in adults and older children are:

  • A blocked nose, sneezing or a runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headache/sinus pain
  • Feeling generally tired
  • Young children and babies may have other symptoms, including:
  • Problems feeding
  • Being restless or irritable
  • A fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck

Symptoms of a cold usually last for a week and sometimes 2 weeks. For most people, a cold will get better on its own within a week of the symptoms starting without any specific treatment. However, you can get treatments from your pharmacy or supermarket that may help to relieve symptoms, which means that you can treat yourself, rather than needing to see your GP.

There is no cure for colds. Antibiotics, which treat infections caused by bacteria, don’t work on cold viruses.

  • Drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Vapour rubs may help relieve symptoms for children.
  • Hot drinks (particularly with lemon), hot soups and spicy foods can help to ease    irritation and pain in your throat or sucking sweets or lozenges which contain menthol or eucalyptus may sooth your throat.  You should also try to make sure you get enough rest if you have a cold.

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