Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket.

Help for the common cold

What is the common cold?

The common cold is a virus that can affect the throat, nose, sinuses and airways; it can be caused by over 200 different viruses, although it is most frequently caused by rhinoviruses. 1,2,3

How do I catch a cold?

You catch common colds by coming into contact with the virus, which can happen when:

  • You have direct contact with an infected person4
  • You inhale the virus when coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person4
  • You touch a surface that has been contaminated by an infected person, such as a doorknob, table or chair5

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket.

What are the symptoms of a cold?

With a cold lasting several days and often consisting of multiple symptoms, it can be very disruptive to family life. The symptoms of a common cold can include:1,2,3

  • Sore throat
  • Malaise and mild fever
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Cough

How often do people get colds?

Adults can experience roughly two to four colds a year, and children can have up to five to ten.1 Over half of us catch a cold in winter, and a quarter of us catch one in spring.6

How to stop a cold from spreading

During cold season it can seem like catching a cold is unavoidable, but there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself and your family.

Wash your hands

The most important way to reduce the chances of catching or spreading the common cold is to wash your hands frequently with soap and running water (preferably warm).1 If water isn’t available, use hand sanitiser.2

Keep your environment clean

Viruses can contaminate surfaces at work and at home in your kitchen and bathroom. Clean surfaces regularly to avoid spreading the cold virus.1

Minimise contact

Minimise contact with people who have cold symptoms. Cold viruses can spread from person to person, so minimising contact with those who are suffering can help.7

Practice good cold hygiene

Cover your cough and catch your sneezes with an elbow or a tissue. Throw the used tissue straight in the bin to reduce the spread of the cold virus.1


Ensure you take the time to rest; give yourself enough time to recover and sleep if you catch a cold.7

Stay healthy

Eat well, avoid excess alcohol and smoking and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Keeping hydrated and healthy will help you reduce your risk of catching a cold and help your recovery if you do catch a cold.7

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

MAT-AU-2102739, Dec 2021


[1] Colds [Internet]. April 2022 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from:
[2] Simasek M, Blandino DA. Treatment of the common cold. American Family Physician. 2007 Feb 15;75(4):515-20. PMID: 17323712.
[3] Allan, G Arroll, B. “Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 183, no. 3 (2014): 190-199.
[4] Common Cold – Infections – MSD Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. MSD Manual Consumer Version. Sep 2022 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from:
[5] How Long Do Viruses Survive Outside the Body? | Passport Health [Internet]. Feb 2021 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from:
[6] The Common Cold [Internet]. 2016 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from:
[7] Redfearn S, Social Distancing Q. Stay Healthy: 6 Tips for Avoiding Cold and Flu [Internet]. WebMD. June 2018 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from: “”

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