Signs and symptoms symptoms of a cold include cough, runny nose, nasal congestion and a sore throat, sometimes accompanied by muscle ache, fatigue, headache, and loss of appetite. In adults, a fever is generally not present but it is common in infants and young children. The cough is usually mild compared to that accompanying influenza. While a cough and a fever indicate a higher likelihood of influenza in adults, a great deal of similarity exists between these two conditions. A number of the viruses that cause the common cold may also result in asymptomatic infections.
The distinction between different viral upper respiratory tract infections is loosely based on the location of symptoms with the common cold affecting primarily the nose, pharyngitis the throat, and bronchitis the lungs. There however can be significant overlap and multiple areas can be affected.
The common cold is frequently defined as nasal inflammation with varying amount of throat inflammation. Self diagnosis is frequent. Isolation of the actual viral agent involved is rarely performed,and it is generally not possible to identify the virus type through symptoms.
Physical measure to prevent the spread of cold viruses has been proved the only effective measure for prevention.
These measures include primarily hand washing and face masks; in the health care environment, gowns and disposable gloves are also used. Efforts such as quarantine are not possible as the disease is so widespread and symptoms are non- specific. Vaccination has proved difficult as there are so many viruses involved and they change rapidly. Creation of a broadly effective vaccine is thus highly improbable. Regular hand washing appears to be effective at reducing the transmission of cold viruses especially among children. Whether the addition of antivirals or antibacterials to normal hand washing provides greater benefit is unknown. Wearing face masks when around people who are infected may be beneficial; there is insufficient evidence for maintaining a greater social distance.Zinc supplementation may be effective at decreasing the rate of colds.
There are currently no medications which have been conclusively demonstrated to shorten the duration of infection. Treatment thus comprises symptomatic relief. Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to maintain hydration, and gargling with warm salt water, are reasonable conservative measures. Much of the benefit from treatment is however attributed to the placebo effect.
Treatments that help reduce symptoms are simple analgesics and antipyretics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen/ paracetamol. Cough medicines are any more effective than simple analgesics and they are not recommended for use in children due to a lack of evidence supporting effectiveness and the potential for harm.