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Common Cold

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Common cold is caused by a viral infection in the mucous membrane of the nose. Stuffy and running nose, sneezing, coughing and headache are typical signs of common cold. There is no cure but the symptoms can be relieved. After one week, the cold will normally have passed.

Common cold is a very common type of infection. It usually occurs during the winter. Especially young ones are struck with common cold.

Common cold is caused by a viral infection in the nose. More than 100 different types of virus can cause common cold. The significance of being dressed warm enough in cold weather is highly overrated and probably has little to do with whether or not you are struck with common cold.

The indications of common cold begin 1 to 3 days after infection. It starts with a stuffy nose, thin clear secretion from the nose, loss of sense of smell, possible sneezing and a light headache and a sore throat. After a couple of days, the secretion from the nose thickens and becomes more yellowish. There may be coughing, which is mostly at a bother at night. Normally, common cold does not cause high fever.

The illness can last up to one week. In rare cases it can spread to the sinuses or the middle ear. This will lead to pressure in the jaw and around the eyes or pain in the ear. In a few cases, common cold can turn into a bacterial infection – this causes fever.

During October and November, many have a vaccine against influenza. This vaccine does not protect you from common cold. There is no vaccine against common cold.

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Common cold is highly contagious. The virus transmits by sneezing or coughing. Common cold is contagious 24 hours before it shows any symptoms. There is therefore no reason to isolate the ill person.

When can I go to work?
Most people go to work but with reduced working capacity during the week the illness lasts. There is no reason to stay home because of common cold.


Nose drops or nose spray that can be bought over the counter can soothe a stuffy nose. There is normally no reason for buying cough medicine. Nor do penicillin or other antibiotics have any effect on common cold. You can relieve headaches and a sore throat by ordinary over the counter pain-killing drugs (aspirin or paracetamol).

What can you do?

Even though you cannot cure a common cold, the symptoms can be relieved. A stuffy nose is uncomfortable and can be relieved by nose drops or nasal spray. Hot beverages often soothe a sore throat. When you go to bed at night, you may want to raise the bedhead so that your head lies higher than the rest of your body. This will counteract the stuffy nose and will keep the secretion from the nose from running down into the lungs and cause coughing.

Contact the doctor tomorrow


If you have a fever of 38.5 °C for more than 3 to 4 days.

Contact the doctor immediately

This is never necessary.