University of Rochester

University Health Service (UHS)
Health Promotion Office

About the Common Cold

There is no cure for the common cold. Upper respiratory infections or colds are an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract caused by many different virus strains that cannot be cured by antibiotics. Most colds last 4-5 days, however, over-the-counter medications may reduce your symptoms. Thus, it is important to determine if you have a cold or something more severe. Information about treating a viral infection.

Colds are spread mainly from person to person through coughs, sneezes, and mucus on a person's hands. You can pick up the virus from books, towels, door handles, etc. that people with a cold virus have touched. Colds may last in diminishing severity for 2 to 4 weeks.

For information about caring for four common cold symptoms, click on the symptom listed here, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and fever, or in the list in the column on the left side of the page.

For each symptom, you will find recommendations for self-care and advice to help you decide when to seek medical care. If you need medical care, you can schedule an appointment at UHS by calling 275-2662.

Is it a cold or is it the flu?

Different viruses cause the cold and the flu. Cold and flu symptoms are similar but have different intensity levels. A cold usually begins with minor sniffling or sneezing, while the flu hits you all at once. A cold rarely moves into the lungs, but the flu can cause pneumonia. Fatigue and muscle aches are more severe with the flu. More information about the flu.

Preventing the spread of the cold virus

For more information, contact Linda Dudman in the UHS Health Promotion Office at (585) 273-5770 or

Please send questions about the technical structure/operation to the UHS Web Master

Last modified: Thursday, 26-May-2011 16:40:20 EDT