Cold Facts

Does getting wet or chilled cause a cold?

No! Many different types of viruses, which are present in your nose and throat, cause colds. You are more likely to get colds or other infections when you don't get enough sleep, eat poorly, or spend time with people who have colds. These conditions can reduce your resistance to infection, making it more likely for you to get sick. Getting wet won't necessarily give you a cold, since the cold virus must also be present.

Can I get a prescription from the doctor to get rid of my cold?

Colds are ailments that you can treat effectively by yourself. There are no medical cures or antibiotics to speed up the healing process of a cold. Viral infections do not improve with treatment by penicillin or other antibiotics. A "penicillin shot" for a cold or allergy with cold-like symptoms is not useful and can lead to a possible drug reaction. Certain medications may help relieve symptoms while your body's immune system fights the cold virus.

What are the symptoms of a cold?

Viral upper respiratory infection (the common cold) usually includes some combination of the following symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, coughing, stuffy or congested nose, hoarseness, swollen glands, muscle aches and fever. One symptom usually starts off the cold and another (usually hoarseness or cough) may remain after the others have subsided.

Do cold symptoms follow a pattern?

Yes. The symptoms appear from 1-3 days after the virus takes hold in your body. But other people can catch your cold even before you experience symptoms, which is one reason why colds are hard to prevent. The first indication of the infection is usually scratchiness or tickling in the throat. Within a few hours, your nose becomes stuffy and you have general feelings of discomfort and illness and you may start sneezing. Within 48 hours, your cold is fully developed. Each of the many viruses that cause upper respiratory infection has a slightly different incubation period, group of symptoms and duration. Most colds last anywhere from 4-14 days. The color of phlegm or mucus does not always indicate bacterial infection and need for antibiotics. The green or yellow color is from dead white blood cells and other debris.

What can I do for my cold?

When should I seek professional advice?

What can I do to help prevent colds?

Since colds are caused by so many different viruses, the immunities you develop to one virus won't protect you against other cold viruses. While there are no sure ways to prevent a cold, the following precautions may help you to avoid catching a cold.


Cecil's textbook of Medicine, 21st ed., (2000)
Clinician's Guide to Holistic Medicine, Anderson (2001)