A cold is a very common mild viral infection which affects the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. Symptoms of a cold can include a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a cough and a sore throat. Some patients experience more severe symptoms. You can find out more about the symptoms of a cold and treating colds from NHS Choices. This includes advice on when to see your GP.
There are approximately 200 viruses that cause colds.
How can I prevent colds?
- Washing your hands regularly destroys bugs that you might have picked up, for example by touching surfaces that other people have used such as light switches or door handles. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly. This removes dirt, viruses and bacteria and helps to stop them spreading.
- Keeping the house and household items like glasses and towels clean is important. This is especially important if someone in your house is currently ill.
- If you have a cold, using disposable tissues instead of cloth handkerchiefs can be helpful. This helps you to avoid constantly reinfecting your hands. Throwing away any used tissues as soon as possible and coughing or sneezing into a tissue can help prevent other people from breathing in the droplets that spread cold and flu viruses or transferring the droplets to their eyes or nose on their fingers.
- As cold and flu viruses can be passed on to others by infected droplets on surfaces or objects, avoiding touching your eyes and nose is also important.
- You can find out more about the effectiveness of vitamin C, echinacea and zinc from NHS Choices.
NHS Choices has also published five facts about colds.
Flu is not just a ‘bad cold’. It is important to be aware of the differences, as thousands of people every year die of complications after catching the flu.
There are just 3 viruses that cause flu. There are lots of strains of these flu viruses and the vaccine is changed each year to help protect against the most common ones.
Flu is particularly dangerous for vulnerable people, such as small children, the elderly, people with long-term health problems and pregnant women. Make sure that you get the flu jab if you are eligible. This leaflet offers more advice and information on the flu vaccination.
It is particularly important to know when to get medical advice.
Although colds and flu share some of the same symptoms, make sure you are aware of the differences between colds and the flu. For more information, have a look at this article which discusses 10 common flu myths.