It’s called a “common” cold for good reason: Most adults get about two or three colds a year, and children get even more. Colds are causes by viruses and are contagious. While colds are often confused with flu, they are not the same. Common cold symptoms are less severe than flu symptoms.

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What causes colds?

Colds can be caused by more than 100 viruses, but the most common cause is rhinoviruses. Colds can happen any time of the year but are most common in winter. Colds are most contagious during the first few days. They spread through coughs and sneezes.

What are common cold symptoms?

Cold symptoms can last up to two weeks. Colds and flu are not the same; cold symptoms are much milder. They include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Tiredness

How are colds treated?

Most colds take care of themselves within a couple of weeks with rest and fluids. Antibiotics can’t treat a viral cold. You can use over-the-counter medications as directed to relieve symptoms such as runny nose, congestion and aches. Consult a healthcare provider for recommendations, especially for children. Never give aspirin to a child.

Colds are generally no reason for concern, but they can cause complications for people with weakened immune systems or other respiratory conditions.

Consult a healthcare provider if:

  • Your cold has not improved within seven to 10 days
  • Your cough is persistent or violent
  • Your fever is high or doesn’t improve
  • A child younger than 3 months has a fever

See a healthcare provider if your cold symptoms don’t improve after about a week or if you have severe symptoms. Visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

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