Common Cold

Every year, millions of people experience the common cold, often multiple times per year. It is most common in the winter and spring, but can happen at any time throughout the year. On college campuses, with close living conditions and cafeteria eating, students are inevitably exposed to the viruses that cause the common cold. Included is some information on what can be experienced and what one can do to reduce the risks.

The common cold is a contagious respiratory condition that is caused by a virus. It is characterized by symptoms listed in the box to the right. Symptoms can last up to 10 days, and most often resolve on their own.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Body aches

When do I need to see a provider?

While the common cold almost always resolves with the help of a good immune system and plenty of rest and fluids, there are some situations when it is necessary to seek medical advice:

  • Fever is over 100.4⁰F for several days
  • Duration of symptoms lasts more than 2 weeks
  • Those with asthma, other respiratory condition, or weakened immune system

Over the counter medications can be considered to help treat some of the symptoms of the common cold.

How can I prevent the common cold?

There are several things one can do to prevent the common cold:

  • Hand hygiene is VERY important in prevention. Washing hands with soap and water, or using a hand sanitizer, often throughout the day, especially before eating, is important.
  • Sanitizing common surfaces in common living areas (bathroom fixtures, counters, doorknobs) will help prevent sharing of the virus through contact
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is actively experiencing symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, or runny nose

If you do experience symptoms of the common cold, consideration for others can prevent spread of the cold. Please avoid close contact with others, cover your cough/sneeze, and use a tissue that can be discarded immediately after use (rather than your sleeve!).

Please feel free to contact student health services at any time with concerns.

CDC Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others