Conquer the common cold

woman on couch with a cold

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than one billion cases of the common cold in the U.S. every year. Colds may not seem like a big deal, but it’s important to recognize the symptoms and get proper care.

Signs and Symptoms

A sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, but don’t shrug off the symptoms as allergies. Look out for:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

Colds don’t usually involve a high fever, so if you have one, you may have influenza (the “flu”). Colds usually last 2-14 days. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days or are severe and persistent, visit your campus or community health center.

Caring for Yourself

Unfortunately, there is no specific remedy for the common cold. Over-the-counter medicines can provide temporary relief and ease symptoms, but they won’t make your cold disappear. The following three tips are your best bet for feeling better soon:

  • Get plenty of rest.
    Ensure that you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep a night, and abstain from vigorous exercise until you feel completely better.
  • Drink a lot of fluids.
    Water and natural juices can help soothe your throat, while hot liquids like soup ease nasal congestion. Also be sure to decrease your intake of caffeinated beverages. Aim to drink 8-10 glasses of non-caffeinated liquids a day.
  • Gargle with warm salt water every few hours.
    Gargling helps with a sore throat by flushing the area, plus the salt works to destroy bacteria and prevent it from growing.


Take preventive measures to avoid getting sick, too. The most important is to wash your hands with soap and warm water, frequently and thoroughly. Also:

  • Avoid close contact with others to prevent a “bug” from spreading.
  • Be sure to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use your elbow rather than a hand.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

More about self-care for colds.