What is a cold and ways to treat the symptoms ?

Washing hands with soap and water under a tap (faucet). A way to alleviate the spread of cold and flu virus.
Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water helps reduce the spread of any infectious diseases.

The common cold is one of those illnesses which really doesn’t need you seeing a physician or general Practitioner. It is however a nuisance !

The Symptoms Of A Cold

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) describes a number:-

  • headache
  • coughs
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • aching muscles
  • blocked or runny nose
  • a raised temperature and fever in some instances
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell

The symptoms are the same for children as they are for adults. Not all these symptoms are experienced and indeed in some they may only suffer slight discomfort if indeed any symptoms at all.

Treating A Cold

To get better more quickly, it is advisable to get plenty of sleep and rest, maintain a certain level of warmth, drink plenty of water and even gargle with salt water to soothe a sore throat.

Dehydration makes the symptoms worse.

Treating The Fever

Cough and cold medicines are available from retailers and pharmacies and advice is available from the pharmacist about the best type of medicines to alleviate symptoms. There are drugs called painkillers which reduce aches, inflammation and lower temperature including paracetamol and ibuprofen.

Always check the dosing levels for paracetamol (acetaminophen), aspirin and ibuprofen in any medicine to avoid taking more than the recommended dose. A number are not suitable for children, babies or pregnant women. Aspirin is never given to children under 16.

Inhaling steam is claimed to ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.

Many organisations are clear that supplements based on vitamin C, zinc, echinacea or garlic can prevent a cold but this has not been clinically proven.  In some cases there may be alleviation of certain symptoms or they might help with recovery but again not enough clinical evidence is available to support this.


In some cases, the common cold can lead to various complications such as acute bronchitis, bacterial sinusitis,  pneumonia and asthma.


There is no cure or vaccine for the common cold because there are so many different viruses that cause it. Given the extreme infectivity of the viruses involved it is always advised to:-

  • Reduce if not avoid contact with anyone with a cold.
  • Maintain good nutrition and hydration.
  • Wash hands with soap and water if you sneeze into them or are handling tissues that have been sneezed into.
  • The cold virus is transmitted between people through contact
  • Keep surfaces especially in the toilet and kitchen as clean as possible
  • Avoid touching the face generally but especially the nose and mouth

Other Aspects

Certain foods are suggested to help more so than others but this may be a placebo effect. These are listed separately because of their general interest and their wider antimicrobial/antiviral activity. It’s worth stressing that good quality nutrition and hydration helps a great deal in the prevention and subsequent return to health of anyone.

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