​C​ommon Cold​

A runny nose, sneezing and throat irritation are the hallmark signs that you are suffering from a cold. Although the common cold is easy to identify, it is very difficult to maintain your everyday routine as the disease interferes with your normal functioning, making one keen to be cured of it sooner rather than later.

The common cold is a viral disease, caused by either one of the hundreds of strains of viruses. You can catch a cold from another person when you come in contact with a surface harbouring the common cold germs. For instance, touching an object held by a person sick with the common cold, such as a doorknob or a computer keyboard, and then touching your nose or mouth with the hand without washing it can transfer the virus from one person to another. 

If your body has already encountered that exact strain of virus before, it will successfully fight it off. However, strains of the common cold virus which are new to the body attach to the lining of the nose or throat, resulting in inflammation of the two and cause excessive mucus production. As the body works hard to fight off the virus, you end up feeling very tired and exhausted. 

It is a prevalent misconception that the common cold is caused by chilly weather or being wet. In fact, it is a disease that is contagious and passed from one person to another. Dry, cold weather makes the lining of the nose and throat drier, making them more prone to get infected by a virus. 

However, certain factors do make a person more likely to catch the common cold, such as being tired, stressed, or being prone to allergies. Usually preschool children are more likely to develop the common cold as their bodies have not developed the immunity against the various strains of viruses yet. In addition, they are more prone to touch germ-infested surfaces because of greater likelihood of exploring objects around them.​

Symptoms of a common cold are fairly easy to identify as most of us have been through several colds in our lives. The usual symptoms include:​

  • Irritation in the throat.

  • Runny and blocked nose with clear mucus. The mucus thickens and becomes coloured as the cold runs its course over the next week or so. The mucus also drains from the nose into the throat.

  • Watery eyes.

  • Sneezing.

  • Cough.

  • Chest congestion.

  • Mild fatigue.

  • Slight body aches.

  • Low-grade fever.

These symptoms of a cold usually run the course and you will be cured of the cold within a week or two​.

Usually the common cold gets cured on its own within a week or two. However, if the cold persists beyond three weeks, you must seek advice from a  doctor working with the Family Health Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Other reasons that necessitate a visit to your doctor include:​

  • Worsening of symptoms over the weeks or no improvement or signs of recovery after two weeks.

  • Difficulty in breathing.

  • Pain in the chest.

  • Coughing up of bloody mucus.

  • Very high fever.

  • Fever with chills, sweating and coughed-up, coloured phlegm.

  • Pain in the sinuses.

​These symptoms indicate that you are not recovering from the common cold, making it advisable to consult a doctor at the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat or the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital to discuss them.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Since most common colds get cured on their own in the course of a week or two, a visit to the doctor is rarely required. The characteristic symptoms of a cold discussed above – a stuffy, runny nose, sneezing and a scratchy throat – make it easy to identify a common cold.

However, if your symptoms have worsened over the week and have become severe, it could be a sign that the cold has developed into a serious disorder and requires immediate medical attention. Your doctor will initially take your medical history to assess the characteristics of your symptoms and will also examine your sinuses, throat and ears to further check for symptoms of a cold. Besides taking your history and conducting a physical examination to evaluate your symptoms, your doctor may request a blood test or even an X-ray, especially if your symptoms show difficulty in breathing or signs of high fever. A throat culture may also be taken as a swab of your throat to check if any bacterial infection is causing throat irritation.

After complete diagnosis, your doctor at the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat or Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital will recommend treatment options to help you get rid of the uncomfortable symptoms of the common cold. 

Your treatment plan for the common cold will depend on the diagnosis made by your doctor. Since common colds are caused by viruses and not bacteria, medications prove to be of minimal help to kill off the viral disease. The cold will run its course over two to three weeks before the symptoms become milder and your condition improves.

Your doctor may prescribe you medications to counter the symptoms and provide you relief till the cold cures on its own. You should be careful in following your doctor’s prescription and avoid self-medication, as the misuse of drugs may lead to fatal consequences. 

In the meanwhile, some measures can be taken to make you feel better and reduce the discomfort caused by the common cold symptoms. These include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and prevent thickening of the mucus.

  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol as they can lead to dehydration.

  • Resting well with plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue and exhaustion.

  • Maintaining a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Besides these, inhaling steam, having warm chicken soup and gargling with saltwater also help reduce the symptoms of the common cold.

You can also take some preventive measures to avoid a cold. Washing your hands regularly, using tissues or the bend of the elbow to sneeze and cough into rather than one’s hands, and avoiding close contact and not sharing utensils with a person affected by cold are some ways of slowing the spread of the cold virus.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.