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The common cold is a viral upper respiratory tract infection. This means that it is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It is contagious, in other words you may catch a cold from someone or pass on the virus to someone else via touching, sneezing or coughing. The symptoms are unpleasant but are seldom, if ever serious.

A person whose immune system is weakened (for example due to immune system diseases, stress, insomnia or certain drugs), may have difficulty fighting off the infection and may as a result develop more severe infections such as pneumonia. The virus remains infectious for around five days after developing symptoms and the infection itself typically lasts between 7 and 14 days.

The best treatment for a cold is rest and sufficient food and water. This allows your body time to focus on fighting the viral infection. Anti-biotics play no role in the cure of the cold as anti-biotics fight bacteria, while the common cold is caused by a virus. Secondary bacterial infections may however develop as bacteria may take advantage of a person's lowered immune system strength while fighting the viral infection. Secondary bacterial infections include infections of the nasal cavity, sinusitis and lung infections such as pneumonia. Please consult your healthcare practitioner if your cold persists for longer than one week.


Symptoms usually begin with a sore or itchy throat and progress to sneezing, blocked nose, sore or itchy nose, hoarseness, a cough, tiredness and mild muscular ache. Fevers and headaches are seldom caused by a cold, however, if they are present they are usually very mild.


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