Although more than 100 viruses can cause a common cold, the rhinovirus is the most common culprit, and it's highly contagious.
A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. But it also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as utensils, towels, toys or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, you're likely to catch a cold.
You may not be able to cure your common cold, but you can make yourself as comfortable as possible. These tips may help:
Drink lots of fluids. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water are all good choices. They help replace fluids lost during mucus production or fever. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration, and cigarette smoke, which can aggravate your symptoms.
Get some rest. If possible, stay home from work or school if you have a fever or a bad cough or are drowsy after taking medications. This will give you a chance to rest as well as reduce the chances that you'll infect others. Wear a mask when you have a cold if you live or work with someone with a chronic disease or compromised immune system.
Adjust your room's temperature and humidity. Keep your room warm, but not overheated. If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.
Use saline nasal drops. To help relieve nasal congestion, try saline nasal drops. You can buy these drops over-the-counter, and they're effective, safe and nonirritating, even for children.