Facts about the common cold
The common cold is caused by more than 200 viruses, says Dr. Maura Sughrue of Fairfax Family Practice in Fairfax, Va. Symptoms are usually nasal congestion, sore throat, coughing, swollen glands and upper respiratory infection. Cold season begins in late September or early October and peaks in January and February.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections, Sughrue says. "With colds, you need to allow your body to fight it off on its own," she says.
Colds are viral infections that typically last about two weeks, Sughrue says. But some cold sufferers may start to feel better, then symptoms return and get worse after about 10 days. "This is called the double-sickening effect," Sughrue says. "It's a sign you may have a bacterial illness complicated from the viral infection."
Makers of 45 over-the-counter medicines for the cough and cold — such as Children's Tylenol Plus Cold and Pedicare Multi-Symptom Cold — are recommending these products not be used by children under age 4 after reports of adverse reactions due to misuse or accidental ingestion, says the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Handwashing helps prevent infection and illness from spreading, Sughrue says. Use soap, warm water and count to 20 before rinsing. Using an alcohol-based sanitizer is also effective. If symptoms, such as high fever or breathing difficulty, persist, Sughrue suggests consulting your physician.
Don't forget to check Angie's List if you're seeking a physician or want to learn how your doctor is rated.