The common cold, otherwise known as rhinopharyngitis, is a very common infection of the nose and throat and is caused by a virus. There are over 200 viruses which can cause a cold.
A cold generally gets better on its own without treatment within 7 to 10 days. Washing out the nose is the best way to ease the main symptoms (runny nose, blocked nose etc.) and the discomfort that you may experience (tiredness, difficulty concentrating etc.).


Contrary to most pre-conceived ideas, the common cold is a result from viral illness. Antibiotics will not help you get back on your feet or cure the cold in any way.

What are the main symptoms?

A cold usually starts with a sore throat and may be accompanied by a slight fever (below 38.5°C) lasting 1 to 3 days. The nose will then become blocked and start to run for 2 to 10 days. The nasal secretions are clear and runny at the start and then thicken and turn yellow or green. A cough may also appear and last for up to 10 days.(1,2)

During the course of a cold, the nasal cavity and pharynx are inflamed and irritated. This causes changes in the nasal mucosa (the lining which covers the inside of the nose).(1,2)

Thus this inflammation is responsible for the different symptoms of the cold: a blocked nose, a runny nose, a sore throat etc.

Coupe de l'appareil respiratoire

The sensation of a blocked nose is caused by a combination
of two mechanisms:

Sensation de nez bouché

What are the consequences?

In adults :
A cold is not a serious illness, but may occur frequently, especially in the winter. It can cause discomfort during the day and night. Having a blocked nose can result in having to partly breathe through the mouth which tends to irritate the throat. At night, this is aggravated by lying down, leading to disturbed and poor sleep quality (snoring, feeling of a dry mouth etc.)(1). A cold and its symptoms cause feelings of tiredness and discomfort during the day.

A few tips to help ease your symptoms during the night :

Sleep with your head elevated on a pillow/cushion.

Humidify the air in your bedroom using a humidifier or a damp cloth placed on the radiator.

Conseil pour vous soulager d'un rhume

A blocked nose or sore throat can prevent children from getting a good night’s sleep and can also affect feeding.(2) Infants breathe mainly through the nose. It is therefore important to help your baby or child to breath easily again.


Conseil pour soulager un enfant d'un rhume

At night, place your baby or child on their back and raise the mattress under the head by 30 degrees.

Spread out his meals. If your child has trouble feeding from his bottle (give him smaller quantities, but feed him more often).


  • Moisten the nasal mucosa using specially adapted cleansing solutions (saline solution, thermal spring water sprays or SEA WATER).
  • Avoid the use of the same nasal nozzle for the rest of the family.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Sleep with your head raised to improve airflow into the blocked nostrils and to get enough sleep.
  • If necessary, protect the skin of your upper lip and nostrils from chafing as constantly wiping or blowing the nose tends to irritate the skin.
  • Avoid the use of air conditioners, which dehumidify the air and dry out the nasal mucosa. The ideal temperature of the room should be around 18-20°C.
  • Do not expose the sick person to tobacco smoke.
  • Regularly air the rooms.

(1) The common cold in adults. Bien vous soigner avec des médicaments disponibles sans ordonnances,
juin 2008 (Using non-prescription medicines correctly, June 2008). Viewed 6/10/2014 on the ANSM website
(2) Rhinopharyngitis in children, updated le 24/09/2014. Viewed 6/10/2014 on the Ameli (health insurance) website: