Coronaviruses (Common Cold Viruses)

About This Disease

There are a number of viruses that can potentially cause the common cold, including rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus. A cold usually begins with a sore throat and runny nose then develops into coughing and sneezing. Other symptoms include Symptoms typically last 7-10 days. Although, people with weakened immune systems or with respiratory conditions, including asthma, could develop severe disease like pneumonia and symptoms could last longer. Transmission occurs through person-to-person contact when an infected person coughs or sneezes and those respiratory secretions come in contact with another person’s eyes, mouth, or nose. The best way to protect yourself from common cold viruses is proper hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding contact with sick individuals. It is very important for sick individuals to stay home from work or school, wash your hands, and cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow to prevent further spread. Learn more information on non-influenza respiratory viruses.

Signs and Symptoms

The common cold usually lasts for 7 to 10 days. Symptoms begin with sore throat and runny nose and then develop into coughing and sneezing. Other symptoms include watery eyes, headaches, and body aches. People with weakened immune systems and respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are at high risk for severe disease, such as pneumonia or ARDS, and may require hospitalization.


The common cold is spread by person-to-person contact. This means if the respiratory droplets secreted from an infected individual’s coughs or sneezes come in contact with another person’s mouth, eyes, or nose, that other person could become infected.


Clinical diagnosis is made based on symptoms. Laboratory tests are not routinely performed because a result would not affect treatment recommendations.


Antibiotics cannot cure the common cold. There is currently no treatment for common cold viruses. The only treatment available help relieve symptoms. The best way to feel better is to rest and drink plenty of fluids.


There is no immunity to the common cold, as many people can experience symptoms several times within a year.

Risk in Hawaii

There is no routine surveillance conducted on common cold viruses in Hawaii. Adults can potentially catch a cold as many as 3 times a year, and children have the potential to catch more.


The best way to prevent any respiratory infection is to avoid close contact with sick individuals, proper hand hygiene, and avoid touching your face (especially mouth, nose, and eyes). The best way a sick individual can prevent further spread is to stay home from school or work and cover their nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, proper hand hygiene.

Additional Resources

Information for Clinicians

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

A virus causes the following symptomology: mucus filling the nasal passages, a runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip, sore throat, and cough. Therefore, antibiotics should not be prescribed when a patient is suspected of a cold and should not be used to prevent severe disease caused by cold viruses. If still unsure whether illness is caused by a virus or bacteria, nasopharyngeal specimens can be obtained for respiratory panel testing at Hawaii’s major clinical laboratories. Consult your clinical laboratory partner for more information.