Common Cold (cont.)

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What is the prognosis for the common cold? What is the duration of the common cold?

Generally, the prognosis for the common cold is excellent. The common cold needs to run its natural course, and most individuals with the common cold will recover within seven to 10 days. However, certain viruses may take up to three weeks to completely resolve.

What are complications of the common cold?

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Complications that may arise from the common cold include the development of a middle ear infection (otitis media) or sinusitis. In individuals with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the common cold can sometimes trigger an exacerbation of their illness, leading to shortness of breath and increased wheezing. Though uncommon, pneumonia can sometimes develop as a secondary infection in individuals with the common cold. An evaluation by a health-care professional should be undertaken if any of these complications are suspected.

Is it possible to prevent the common cold?

The most important measure to prevent the common cold is to avoid contact with infected individuals. Other measures to help prevent the common cold include the following:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing is extremely important, as this can destroy viruses acquired from touching contaminated surfaces.
  • Disinfect potentially infected surfaces or personal objects, and do not share personal belongings such as towels, handkerchiefs, or tissues.
  • Avoid sharing utensils and try to use disposable items (such as disposable cups) if someone in the family has a cold.
  • Encourage individuals to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent transmission of the virus.
  • Lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation and stress management may decrease susceptibility to acquiring the common cold.

Currently, there is no effective vaccine against the common cold.


United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Common Cold and Runny Nose." Sept. 30, 2013.<>.

United States. National Library of Medicine. "Common Cold." Jan. 21, 2013. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/30/2015

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Common Cold - What You Do To Avoid Question: What do you do to avoid catching a cold?
Common Cold - Home Remedies Question: Do you know of any effective home remedies for the common cold?
Common Cold - Complications Question: What common cold-related complications have you experienced?