Common cold

Last updated: January 3, 2023

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A common cold is a nonspecific, acute, self-limited infection of the upper respiratory tract. It more commonly occurs in children and most infections occur during fall and winter. Common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, causing rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and coughing. Diagnosis is usually clinical and treatment is mostly symptomatic. The most important complication of common cold is secondary bacterial infection (e.g., pneumonia).

A nonspecific, acute, self-limited viral infection of the upper respiratory tract [1]

  • Leading cause of ambulatory care visits in the US [1]
  • More common in children [2]
  • Seasonal pattern: Most infections occur during the fall and winter.

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Infection of the nasal epithelium triggers the inflammatory response, which leads to: [3][4]

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

  1. Jameson JL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Loscalzo J. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, Twentieth Edition (Vol.1 & Vol.2). McGraw-Hill Education / Medical ; 2018
  2. Benjamin I, Griggs RC, Fitz JG. Andreoli and Carpenter's Cecil Essentials of Medicine E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences ; 2015
  3. Goldman L, Schafer AI. Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 25th Edition. Elsevier ; 2016
  4. Pappas DE. The Common Cold. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 2018 : p.199-202.e1. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-323-40181-4.00026-8 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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