The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory passages. Unfortunately, over 200 different viruses can cause colds, making it virtually impossible to develop a vaccine or cure. The common cold often differs from other respiratory infections in that fever is most often absent, and the symptoms are generally milder. Colds are more widespread during the winter, especially if you live or work in crowded spaces. Infection occurs through the droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing, or from direct person-to-person contact. The precise symptoms of a cold can vary, but the first signs are usually sneezing, a headache, and a general feeling of ill health. This is typically followed by chills, a scratchy or sore throat, heavy nasal discharge, watery eyes, and coughing. To relieve symptoms, get plenty of bed rest, drink lots of fluids, and take aspirin to relieve any aches or pains. Cough drops, cough syrups, or throat lozenges may also be helpful. If breathing difficulties occur, a nasal decongestant or humidifier may relieve congestion. For children under the age of sixteen, be sure to check the label for dosage amounts, and give only aspirin substitutes. To find out more about colds, contact a health care provider.
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