Excerpted from Wikipedia
The common cold, also known simply as a cold, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that primarily affects the nose. The throat, sinuses, and larynx may also be affected. Signs and symptoms may appear less than two days after exposure to the virus. These may include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and fever. People usually recover in seven to ten days, but some symptoms may last up to three weeks. Occasionally those with other health problems may develop pneumonia.
Well over 200 virus strains are implicated in causing the common cold, with rhinoviruses being the most common. They spread through the air during close contact with infected people or indirectly through contact with objects in the environment, followed by transfer to the mouth or nose. Risk factors include going to child care facilities, not sleeping well, and psychological stress. The symptoms are mostly due to the body’s immune response to the infection rather than to tissue destruction by the viruses themselves. The symptoms of influenza are similar to those of a cold, although usually more severe and less likely to include a runny nose.
There is no vaccine for the common cold. The primary methods of prevention are handwashing; not touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and staying away from sick people. Some evidence supports the use of face masks. There is also no cure, but the symptoms can be treated. Zinc may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if started shortly after the onset of symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help with pain. Antibiotics, however, should not be used and there is no good evidence that cough medicines are effective.
The common cold is the most frequent infectious disease in humans. The average adult gets two to three colds a year, while the average child may get six to eight. Infections occur more commonly during the winter. These infections have existed throughout human history.