The common cold is a mild viral infection. Cold symptoms come on gradually and can include:
All of these symptoms can be treated at home, without the need to visit your GP or the need for antibiotics.
Antibiotics are ineffective for treating the common cold; they won’t relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and colds are caused by viruses.
Common colds are treatable with some simple measures. To help you get better more quickly:
How can I avoid triggers? Suggested lifestyle changes…
The best ways to avoid catching a cold are:
There’s little evidence that supplements (such as vitamin c, zinc, echinacea or garlic) prevent colds or speed up recovery.
The flu vaccine helps prevent the flu but not colds.
You can buy cough and cold medicines from pharmacies or supermarkets. Below is a list of symptoms and possible over the counter treatments, Speak to your pharmacist for advice if you’re not sure which type of medicine is best for you and your symptoms:
Be careful not to use cough and cold medicines if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.
Some are not suitable for children; babies and pregnant women speak to your pharmacist for advice.
Colds are caused by viruses and easily spread to other people. You’re infectious until all your symptoms have gone. This usually takes a week or two.
Colds are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading a cold:
Most colds are not serious and get better by themselves. Contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery for urgent advice if you notice one or more of the following: