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Reviewed 3/25/2024

5 facts about the common cold

Pretty much everybody gets a cold now and then. In fact, the average adult gets 2 to 4 colds a year. So why isn't there a vaccine to prevent the cold yet? The following facts can help answer that question—as well as help you avoid or cope with a bothersome cold.

Cold viruses use their numbers to evade immunity

More than 200 viruses can cause colds. Your body can't build immunity to every one of these viruses, which is why you can get colds over and over again. This is also why scientists haven't been able to make a vaccine to prevent the common cold.

Healthy habits are the best defense against colds

Cold viruses spread through sneeze and cough droplets. Some things you can do to avoid these germs are to wash your hands often with soap and water; keep your distance from others who have a cold; and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Soup really can help you feel better

Getting plenty of fluids can help ease cold symptoms. And breathing in the steam from hot water—or a bowl of soup—may help with congestion. The steam from a warm shower could also help.

Over-the-counter medicines can't cure colds

The only way to cure a cold is to give it time to run its course. OTC products, like cold or pain medicines, may ease cold symptoms, but they won't help you get over your cold more quickly. Also keep in mind that antibiotics won't help your cold because they only work against bacterial infections, not viruses.

Most colds start to clear up after a week

Cold symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and a stuffy or runny nose, usually start to get better in 7 to 10 days. But some cold symptoms, like a cough, can last for up to 3 weeks. You should check with a doctor if your cold symptoms last more than 10 days. Symptoms that last this long may be due to conditions other than colds, like sinus infections or allergies.

Is it allergies or a cold?

Taking our assessment can help you decide if your symptoms are due to allergies or a cold.

Take the assessment


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