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Health Topics and Alerts

Common Cold

What causes the common cold?

Viruses do. There are over 100 different viruses that can cause colds.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

Methods of transmission

A cold virus can attack and multiply in cells that line the nose and throat. You can catch a cold if you touch your eyes or nose after touching the hand of an infected person or touching a hard surface shortly after an infected person touched it. This does not necessarily mean that you will become infected. It depends on your immune system and history of pervious exposure to the virus. Young adults average 4-6 colds per year.

What can I do to feel better?

There's no cure for a cold. Antibiotics don't work against viruses. All you can do to feel better is to treat your symptoms while your body fights off the virus.

Should I take medicine for a cold?

No medicine can cure a cold or the flu. Medicine can, however, help relieve some of your cold or flu symptoms.

Runny Nose/ Congestion

Runny nose and congestion may be relieved by a decongestant (pseudo-ephedrine e.g. Sudafed), but the common side effects are sleeplessness and decreased appetite.

Nasal Sprays

Saltwater nasal sprays (e.g. Nasal or Ocean) may ease nasal congestion and make mucus less thick. Do not use medicated nasal sprays (e.g. Afrin) without health care provider direction because excessive use can cause dependence and may make congestion worse.


Cough suppressants, dextromethorphan (e.g. Robitussin DM), may be used if a cough is interfering with sleep or work.

Sore Throat

Lozenges and sprays containing phenol (e.g. Cepastat, Chloraseptic), or dyclonine (e.g. Sucrets Maximum Strength, Sucrets Throat Spray) are effective pain relievers for sore throat. Gargling with warm salt water (one teaspoon salt in a cup of hot water) 3-4 times a day may also help ease sore throat pain by helping reduce swelling of the tonsils and throat.


It will be helpful for you to use a fever/pain reducer such as acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil). Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and do not exceed the daily limit.

What preventative measures can I take?