A cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. Read more about the disease and how to get rid of it!


A Erkältung is an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It is triggered by various types of viruses. It usually occurs in autumn and winter. A cold can be recognized by symptoms such as a cold, cough or fever. In most cases, a cold does not last more than a week, complications are rare. Read here everything you need to catch a cold.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid codes for medical diagnosis. They are found e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates. J00J06J11

Article overview


  • description

  • symptoms

  • Causes and risk factors

  • Examinations and diagnosis

  • treatment

  • Disease course and prognosis

Cold: Description

A cold (flu infection) is an infection of the upper airways with viruses. Most of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and bronchi are affected. In some cases, there is also an infection with bacteria. Physicians then speak of a secondary or superinfection.

A cold causes symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, chills and headache. In most cases, a cold is harmless. The symptoms usually last about a week.

Most colds occur during the autumn and winter months. In exceptional cases, a normal cold causes a chronic cold. This is what medics are talking about when the cold recurs again and again within a short time and those affected can hardly recover properly. This type of cold usually occurs in people who have a weakened immune system (such as HIV) or, if you're infected again while you're still ill.

Everyone can have a cold. That is why it is considered the most common infectious disease in Europe: schoolchildren have seven to ten infections per year, adults about two to five.

In principle, a cold is contagious. The viruses are transmitted to other people in the smallest saliva droplets when coughing, talking or sneezing. In people with chronic conditions, such as HIV, a cold can be more severe than otherwise healthy people.

In everyday use, a flu infection is often confused with the flu. The difference between cold and cold is that the cold is usually more superficial and with lighter symptoms. On the other hand, influenza can become so severe that it can even end in death for people with impaired immunity, babies or elderly people. An influenza usually causes a high fever, body aches and it often takes several weeks for the affected person to fully recover.

Cold in the summer?

Around twenty percent of the colds occur in the summer. This surprises many people, but is easy to explain: In summer, our immune system is quickly overwhelmed by various factors. Risk factors for a cold in the summer are strong temperature fluctuations, physical exertion and long stays in the sun. Even a long swim in the water and keeping wet bathing clothes strain the body.

Therefore, make sure not to spend too much time in the water during the summer. Take a break when you feel cold and dry off well. Change damp or sweaty clothes immediately. The air conditioning in the car and draft in the house are risk factors.

If possible, you should always have a light jacket in summer as well. Especially in the evening it comes quickly to a temperature change. Also, make sure you drink enough: two to three liters a day is absolutely necessary. This not only ensures that the body does not dry out, the liquid also keeps the mucous membranes moist and ensures that they maintain their natural shield against pathogens.

Allergy or cold?

The symptoms of allergy and cold are often very similar, so the question often arises in everyday life â € œcooling or allergy? Â €. Both cause colds, nasal congestion, sneezing or headaches. But you can tell what it is by some minor differences. An allergy rarely causes fever or headache, but it does occur when it's cold. Cough, hoarseness and dizziness are more likely signs of a cold. An allergy, on the other hand, often irritates the eyes and causes more sneezing. A pronounced disease feeling is missing with the allergy usually.

Cold: symptoms

Read all about the typical signs of cold in the article
Colds à ¢ â,¬â "Symptoms.

If everything sniffs and coughs, it can catch you too. How to protect, shows the video.

Cold: causes and risk factors

A flu infection can be triggered by around 200 different types of viruses. The viruses are transmitted to other people in small saliva droplets that arise during speech, coughing or sneezing (droplet infection). After the viruses have invaded the body, they first attack the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. An incipient cold is usually recognized by a cold or by the fact that the nose is "closed". From there, the viruses migrate down the respiratory tract over the throat and invade the mucous membranes of the bronchi. In extreme cases, this can lead to bronchitis. In addition, the pathogens can also enter the paranasal sinus and cause sinusitis (sinusitis). As a trigger of a cold, inter alia, the following viruses come into question:

  • Rhinoviruses (40 percent)
  • RSV (10-15 percent)
  • Coronaviruses (10-25 percent)

In small children, human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is the most common cause of cold after rhinoviruses. Virus strains that cause a cold mutate easily. After a single infection, you are not immune to a specific virus. You can catch colds again and again.

Between the infection and the onset of the cold are usually about two to five days (incubation period). During this time, no symptoms of disease occur even though the viruses are already in the body. Even without discomfort you can infect other people during this time. Cold viruses survive for several hours on the skin of humans. The viruses can also be transferred to objects or other people (smear infection). Especially in children, the infection (cold or flu) happens quickly through shared toys. So be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after each nose brushing or sneezing.

Again and again the connection between cold and cold is discussed. In the past, it was assumed that exposure to cold for too long could cause a cold. More likely, however, is that too long a cold exposure weakens the immune system - or even the dry heating air, which strains the mucous membranes. In a weakened immune system, the viruses can easily enter the body.

Cold: examinations and diagnosis

The diagnosis is made during a cold based on the symptoms and the physical examination. You do not always have to go to a doctor for a cold. You can also cure a slight cold yourself. Occur symptoms that are not classically associated with a cold, but a visit to the doctor makes sense. In any case, the following groups of people should consult a doctor, as even a simple cold can be dangerous for them:

  • People with immunodeficiency (congenital or acquired, for example, by drugs in cancer therapy)
  • People with existing other illnesses (especially in bronchial asthma)
  • People who have been on long-distance travel lately
  • older people
  • small children

First, the doctor records the medical history (medical history). You have the opportunity to describe your symptoms exactly. In addition, the doctor can ask questions like:

  • Since when do you have these symptoms?
  • Do you have chills?
  • Is the mucus on coughing or nasal secretions greenish, yellowish or brownish?
  • Do you have elevated temperature or fever?

Subsequently, a physical examination takes place. In doing so, the doctor listens to the lungs and the respiratory tract in order to rule out other illnesses that may be favored by a cold (such as pneumonia). Also useful is a blood test in which the pathogens are determined more accurately.

In the case of a cold, a viral infection as well as a bacterial infection are common. Doctors speak of a super or secondary infection. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but not viruses. Therefore, the specific pathogens are detected in the blood in order to decide whether and how to treat a flu infection.

Difference Influenza & Cold

It is important to determine exactly whether there is a cold or flu in the acute case. A flu is usually much heavier than a common cold. It may pose a serious mortal danger to small children, the elderly or people whose immune system is weakened (for example in HIV).

In the case of flu, the symptoms are usually very sudden and there is a rapid deterioration. In contrast to the slight headache with the common cold, the headache is usually boring or throbbing. Runny nose occurs only occasionally, but the body temperature can rise to over 41 degrees. The high fever is usually accompanied by chills, sweats and fatigue. Often, loss of appetite, weakness and circulatory problems are added. In the cold, sore throat rarely occurs, the coughing is usually low. In flu, sufferers often suffer from severe sore throat, combined with a dry, dry cough.The difference between flu and cold can usually be determined by the physician on the basis of the anamnesis. The physical examination can confirm the suspicion.

  • Image 1 of 6

    Immune protection from the pantry

    Viruses, bacteria, fungi - our defense has a lot to do to defend against intruders. Who wants to support his body police, but does not have to go to the pharmacy and buy expensive tablets. Nature gives us a lot of money, cheap and easy - the top five tips from the pantry!

  • Image 2 of 6

    Olive oil inhibits inflammation

    Olive oil is rich in vitamin E. Not only does this have anti-inflammatory effects, it also activates T cells. It also ensures that the immune cells mature properly. And it brings extra protection: As an antioxidant, it eliminates the so-called free radicals, which damage the immune cells. Incidentally, other vegetable oils are also good vitamin E suppliers as well as almonds and hazelnuts.

  • Picture 3 of 6

    Helpful coldsuds

    Tingling in the nose, burning in the eyes and scratching the throat - pretty sure signs that an infection is approaching. A helpful remedy: Cut a raw onion into thin slices, place the pieces in a bowl or cup and pour a quarter liter of lukewarm water over it. Leave the mixture for one night. Then strain and drink from the collected broth several times a day - so you can eliminate all viruses!

  • Image 4 of 6

    Coconuts multiply defense cells

    Selenium is a trace element that not only reduces the proliferation of viruses in the body, but also helps in the production of immune cells. An additional advantage: a selenium level of 150 micrograms in the blood is said to protect against cancer. A very good source of selenium are coconuts. But also in fish, liver, seafood, milk and vegetables, the trace element is included.

  • Image 5 of 6

    Spinach for antibody production

    Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin of the B group. It is involved in many metabolic processes. This also benefits the immune system: it needs folic acid to build antibodies. Only about twenty percent of the German population absorbs enough of their daily food. It is worthwhile to use green vegetables such as spinach or broccoli more often. Legumes, wheat germ, wholegrain cereals, yeast, egg yolk and citrus fruits and juices also contain a lot of folic acid.

  • Picture 6 of 6

    Eggs instead of sun?

    Phagocytes need vitamin D to work properly, otherwise viruses and bacteria can easily play. If you are very infectious, you should often eat a scrambled egg for breakfast. Also fish and milk are rich in vitamin D. Good to know: The body is the lion's share of the vitamin itself. However, he needs sufficient sun to do so. The motto is: get out in the fresh air, at least 30 minutes per day!

Cold: treatment

A cold can usually be treated independently, only in very severe cases, a visit to the doctor is necessary. Above all, sufficient physical protection, plenty of drinking and, if necessary, measures to soothe the mucous membranes in the nasopharyngeal area are important.

It is best to drink herbal tea with a cold. These soothe the mucous membranes and ensure that your body does not dry out. If you have a bad cold with a fever and a bad sense of illness, it may be useful to stay home or in bed for a few days.

Nasal drops also help to reduce the mucous membranes, making it easier to breathe through the nose. Nasal sprays should not be used for more than a week at a time, so the recommendation. There is a risk that the body will get used to the substances and you will have trouble breathing without a nasal spray. Only nasal spray based on a salt solution (seawater nasal spray) can be used longer. An inhalation is just as effective: dissolve a few spoonfuls of cooking salt in boiling water and inhale the rising vapor. You can cover your head and bowl with a towel so that as much steam as possible gets into your nose.


To reduce the pain you can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These drugs are relatively weak in their effect and are therefore suitable for self-medication. Pay careful attention to the instructions on the leaflet. Paracetamol has an analgesic and a fever-lowering effect. Both medicines can be used in the form of tablets, as a suppository, syrup or juice. In children you should use suppositories, syrup or juice. Swallowing tablets is difficult for many children. When dosing you should not exceed a maximum dose of eight tablets á 500 mg in adults, otherwise it can lead to liver damage. Taking paracetamol in single doses, should be between the revenue each six to eight hours.

More tips for a cold

Make sure that you have hygiene when you have a cold.It's best to wash your hands after every nasal wash. Because the viruses can survive on the body surface for a long time, you can always infect yourself and other people again and again. Immediately throw used handkerchiefs in the trash and do not leave them lying around. Poor hygiene is one reason why a cold can develop into a chronic cold.

Avoid physical exertion and sport! With heavier load during a cold it can come to an inflammation of the heart musculature (myocarditis). Eat as versatile and balanced as possible. There is no point in swallowing only vitamin supplements. Instead, you should look for a varied, vitamin-rich diet with enough minerals. This also strengthens your immune system and your natural defense.

Sleep with your head up. This frees the mucous membranes and makes you breathe easier. So you sleep through more and feel fitter in the morning. In addition, sufficient sleep strengthens the immune system. It is also good to ventilate the apartment regularly or to set up a humidifier. You should also avoid cigarette smoke. This irritates the mucous membranes and can thus increase the discomfort.

Cold: disease course and prognosis

A flu infection is usually harmless. The symptoms usually last for about one, for a maximum of two weeks. In exceptional cases, a cold may take longer. This is the case, for example, if you repeatedly transfer viruses to yourself due to a lack of hygiene. Viruses mutate very fast. However, the body forms very specific substances for defense against only one type of virus. If another virus is added, the cold can break out again. A longer duration of illness may also be present if you get infected by someone else during the cold.

Complications rarely occur with a cold. Due to the viruses, however, the mucous membranes are weakened and more susceptible to other pathogens. Thus, a common cold often leads to a secondary infection with bacteria. This can cause inflammation of the eyes, sinuses, middle ear, throat, bronchi or lungs. In such case, it is advisable to see a doctor. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Also, be careful not to drive a spot with a cold! Due to the increased load together with the virus attack can lead to an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). This is potentially life threatening.

If you have a bad cold, it may be a good idea to get sick for a few days and stay at home. Make sure that you fully recover. Do not cure yourself completely, it often comes to the fact that a cold is being abducted. In case of an aborted cold, the pathogens are not completely eliminated from the body or the body is repeatedly attacked by other viruses within a short time. This can develop into a chronic cold. Sufficient protection is important. Overall, one represents cold but usually not a major impairment and severe cases are more of an exception than the rule.

Read more about the therapies

  • nasal douche

Like This? Share With Friends: