The cold is often confused with the flu , but the cold often has milder symptoms than the seasonal flu, and the cold can be caused by over 200 types of viruses.
The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection. It is estimated that an adult in the northern hemisphere is affected by about 4 episodes of cold per year, children can have up to 8 to 10 episodes per year.

A cold usually gets better within a week (8 to 10 days to be precise).

Here is a summary of the main cold symptoms and their appearances in time.

The cold, unlike the flu, is almost always benign.

Treatment is symptomatic and based on the use of certain over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol.

Read:  Difference between cold and flu


cold is an illness that affects the airways and in particular the nose.

The nasal cavities and sinuses continually secrete a liquid that keeps the mucosa moist. This liquid prevents the entry of infectious agents, humidifies and warms the inspired air. Then it is transported by cilia that take it to the interior.

When the mucosa is irritated (effect of viruses, for example), it swells, increases its secretion of liquid to « expel » the viruses and decreases the free space dedicated to the shedding of mucus, which causes the cold. One can feel an unpleasant sensation of obstruction of the entire nasal region.

We distinguish allergic rhinitis from a seasonal cold, the latter is caused mainly by viruses and is very frequent in autumn, winter and early spring, in addition to being frequently associated with a flu syndrome.


Viruses are usually responsible for colds ( rhinovirus ). There are about 200 different types of viruses that invade the cells of the nasal mucosa and cause the common cold. In Germany, the coronavirus is responsible for 30% of colds, according to Prof. Andreas Thiel from the Charité hospital in Berlin in a press release in July 20201.

We observe that, as with the flu syndrome (the cold is a possible symptom of the flu syndrome), it is not the cold itself that is responsible for the cold but, as we saw above, it is a virus. The cold favors the development of the virus, mainly due to the weakening of the immune system.

In addition to the cold, we note that stress and humidity can favor the appearance or development of viruses, thus causing a cold. This means that boosting the immune system through the use of echinacea, vitamin C, warm clothing and lowering stress are important factors as a means of preventing the common cold.

It is a very contagious infection that spreads through sneezing, coughing (droplet transmission) or sometimes even through a handshake.

As it is a virus, antibiotics have no effect on curing a cold in cases where there is no bacterial superinfection (for example, in the case of bacterial sinusitis).
In the case of a cold with no bacterial superinfection, the only thing we can do is treat the symptoms.

Not enough sleep increases the risk of catching a cold
In August 2015, a study conducted by the University of California (San Francisco) published in the journal Sleep, showed that participants who slept less than six hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold than those who get more than seven hours of sleep. Volunteers who slept less than five hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to get sick. To reach these conclusions, the scientists administered the flu virus via nasal drops to the participants, taking samples daily for a week to see if the virus was developing.

Diffusion of rhinoviruses
Rhinoviruses , cold viruses , do not seem to be necessarily dependent on cold, dry weather to spread, unlike the flu virus (influenza) which often leads to epidemics during temperatures of 0°C or below over time dry, according to a study carried out in 2016 by the Sahlgrenska hospital in Sweden and published in the specialized journal Journal of Clinical Virology.


Typical symptoms of a cold are:

– at the beginning of a cold, the nasal discharge is liquid and clear.

– afterwards, the liquid becomes thicker and purulent. This occurs after a few days and this is when the nose gets blocked.

– the cold may be associated with sneezing or other symptoms typical of a flu-like illness (pain, fever , burning inside the nose, sore throat )

– tearing can also be a symptom of the cold.

A cold usually lasts 7 to 10 days.

Consult your doctor if the cold is associated with high and lasting fever, impression of sinusitis (obstruction up to the top of the forehead), if the cold lasts more than 10 days, as well as in case of breathing problems.

Read:  Difference between cold and flu


Several relatively effective medications are available to treat a cold:

– local vasoconstrictors (based on xylometazoline, for example) that effectively treat cold symptoms. They can be used in the form of a spray when the nose is blocked. (Attention, do not use these sprays for more than 10 days, only on the doctor’s advice, as the medicine itself can cause a cold after a certain period of time, and a vicious circle is installed).

– antihistamines: for example, when the nose runs (liquid).

– vasoconstrictors taken orally (pseudoephedrine-based, for example).
Attention, in case of hypertension talk to your doctor or pharmacist, as there is a risk of side effects.

– medicines composed of several molecules to treat cold and pain. There are different preparations, talk to your pharmacist.

– acetylsalicylic acid (dosage for adults: in 500 mg tablets, three times a day): according to specialists, this medicine slows down the development of colds, acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and febrifuge.
Attention to side effects and risks of interaction with acetylsalicylic acid. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

– saline solutions to be used in nasal wash, saline solution. Different saline preparations for sale in pharmacies. It is also possible to prepare saline water at home.

– nasal ointments: to moisturize the mucous membrane that is almost always very dry after a cold. There are different nasal ointments available in pharmacies.

Herbal medicine

Medicinal plants that have a favorable effect against colds

– Eucalyptus , to be used mainly in the form of essential oil to make inhalations,

– Thyme , to be used mainly in the form of essential oil to make inhalations, for example.

home remedies

– Thyme inhalation

– saline solution

– chicken soup


– Drink plenty of fluids, about 1 liter a day. Give preference to fruit juice, infusion or tea. Proven result: “dilution” of the virus, which increases its elimination.

– Drink plenty of fluids such as water, but also juices (eg lemon juice) or herbal teas. In the case of fever and excessive mucus production (rhinitis, cough), the body loses water that needs to be replaced. Avoid ingesting alcoholic beverages and coffee that favor dehydration. Have hot drinks.

– Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C or take medications or food supplements rich in  vitamin C and/or zinc. A study published in 2017 by Dr. Harri Hemilä of the University of Helsinki showed that taking 8 g (eight grams) a day of vitamin C reduced the duration of common cold symptoms by 19% compared to taking a placebo. With a dose of 4 g of vitamin C, the duration of colds was reduced by approximately 10%. Participants in this Finnish study consumed either 8g or 4g of vitamin C on just the first day of their cold. This study was published in the journal Nutrients   on March 29, 2017.

– Get enough sleep (rest increases immune defenses)

– Humidify the nasal mucosa with saline solution.

– Make hot steam inhalations (with or without essential oils), for example based on thyme

– Sometimes in the case of colds, the mucous membrane can become very dry, so do not hesitate to apply a moisturizing nasal ointment (there are several nasal ointments for sale in pharmacies).


Here are 12 interesting pieces of advice to prevent the common cold:

1. Wash your hands:

Most colds spread through direct contact. For example, a sick person blows his nose, he will have viruses on his hands, which in turn can be deposited on a telephone, a keyboard or a glass.
Germs can live for hours, so wash your hands often! If this possibility is out of your reach, rub your hands together, this way the germs are destroyed equally. Do it hard and for at least 1 minute.

2. Don’t touch your nose with your hands:

As mentioned earlier, germs stay on your hands. It is highly advised to blow your nose with a tissue, sneeze or cough into a tissue as well. This is a good way to ward off germs.

3. Don’t touch your face with your hands:

Flu and cold viruses enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth. By touching these parts, most people, adults and children, transmit germs to their surroundings.

4. Drink plenty of fluids:

Water cleans the body! This saying is true, drinking plenty of water (1 and a half liters a day) allows you to eliminate poisons, bacteria and other viruses, in addition to hydrating. We can consider that through water, germs are diluted and this allows for a faster elimination.

5. Take a sauna

Research is still not very clear, but for now it is believed that two saunas a week would halve the likelihood of getting a flu-like illness (including colds or the flu).
One theory that exists is that in the sauna we inhale hot air with more than 80°C and this high temperature would kill the viruses.

6. Breathe in fresh air

This may seem paradoxical, but fresh air makes it possible to improve resistance to the cold, especially in winter, as the body is vulnerable when we move away from the heaters and return to the cold.

7. Exercise regularly

Do exercises (sports or walking), as this helps to develop resistance in the immune system (defense system). It will fight aggressors more effectively (viruses and bacteria).

8. Eat fruits and vegetables

We find in fruits and vegetables natural molecules that we call phytosubstances, these are, for example, vitamins, carotenes,… The latter help to strengthen the human body’s defences.

9. Take yogurt

Studies have shown that having one yogurt a day can reduce the likelihood of having a cold by 25%. It is believed that the bacteria present in yogurt could stimulate the immune (defense) system.

10. Don’t smoke or smoke less

Smoking paralyzes the nose cilia, less germs are retained and the body weakens. Experts believe that smoking one cigarette a day can paralyze eyelashes for 30-40 minutes.

11. Decrease alcohol consumption

A very high consumption of alcohol destroys the liver, which is one of the main organs for purifying germs. In addition, alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated and this is contrary to the prevention and treatment of the flu.

12. Relax often!

Relaxing is very important. Studies have shown that relaxation can activate the immune system. In fact, its interleukins, important molecules within the defense system against flu and cold viruses, increase in blood circulation. You will then increase your defenses.

Read also: 10 tips to strengthen your immunity and resistance  – 10 foods for the winter  – Chicken soup  –  Difference between cold and flu

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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