The common cold is an infection caused by a virus that affects the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and throat. Signs of a cold may include runny nose, sore throat, cough, watery eyes, sneezing, and congestion. Because the common cold can be caused by one of over 200 different viruses, signs and symptoms may vary. Most people with a common cold usually start feeling better after one to two weeks of symptoms. The cold virus enters the body through the nose, mouth, and eyes. The virus can spread when someone who has a viral infection passes the virus to others, usually by coughing or sneezing. The virus can also spread through contact with another person or the objects that they touched.
Risk factors that may make a person more susceptible to catching the common cold include their age and the time of year. Infants and young children are more susceptible because they have a weak immune system that has not yet developed a resistance against the cold causing viruses. Children are also more likely to be surrounded by other children who do not wash their hands or cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Even though the younger population is at the greatest risk, healthy adults can also be affected. The time of the year also contributes to the symptoms of the common cold. Most children and adults contract a cold causing virus during the fall and winter seasons because most people are indoors and have close contact with others during this time. While there is no cure for the common cold, there are over-the-counter medications that may help relieve symptoms, such as pain relievers, decongestants, or cough syrup. If a person shows signs and symptoms of an infection after one to two weeks, they should talk with their doctor about additional treatment options.