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Health Services

The Common Cold

EphNotes

Upper Respiratory Infections

Signs and Symptoms

The following symptoms usually last from 3 to 7 days, and are indicative of a URI:

  • sneezing
  • a clear-mucus runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • a slight fever, rarely above 101°F
  • a dry cough

Prevention

  • frequent hand washing
  • avoid sharing food and drink with others
  • maintain a healthy immune system:
    • get plenty of sleep
    • eat a well-balanced diet
    • get plenty of exercise
    • find out if Vitamin C supplements aid cold prevention for you

Self-Care for URIs

  • get lots of rest, especially when running a fever
  • drink lots of fluids, hot or cold
    • this helps to break up accumulated secretions, and may help to prevent further complications such as bronchitis and fever
  • take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve aches, pains and fever
  • soothe sore throat with frequent salt water gargles and sucking on cough lozenges
  • breathe air from COOL mist vaporizers to keep mucous membranes moist and to help quiet coughing
  • chicken soup! — it really helps: it aids the clearing of mucous from the throat and esophagus, and the broth may contain a substance that inhibits the common cold virus
  • hot, steamy showers keep mucous membranes moist and open up a congested head
  • antihistamines or decongestants may help to provide symptomatic relief, and can be obtained at the health center
  • antibiotics will not be helpful, though, since a URI is caused by a viral infection rather than a bacterial infection

Go to the Health Center or your doctor if:

  • cold symptoms are accompanied by rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, extreme fatigue, unusual irritability or delirium
  • there is pain, tenderness and/or swelling over facial sinuses that worsens when bending over or changing head position
  • a more than mild earache exists
  • neck glands are very enlarged and tender
  • coughing is producing yellow/green sputum (spit)
  • coughing lasts longer than 10 days
  • fever of 103°F, especially when combined with any of the above symptoms
  • the throat, nose, or ears emit a foul odor

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