Synonyms in a broader sense

Medical: acute rhinitis (acute rhinitis); viral rhinitis; microbial rhinitis, koryza

Cold, inflammation of the main nasal cavity

English: cold, coomon cold, catarrh, rhinitis


An adult suffers from a cold about two to three times a year. In children, the occurrence is even more common with four to eight colds. In total, a person goes through around 200 colds in his life. About half of all colds are caused by rhinoviruses.



The common cold (Rhinitis), which we all go through at least once in one of the cold seasons, is a harmless infection by a virus. Mostly it concerns viruses from the group of rhinoviruses (rhinoviruses) or adenoviruses. A runny nose is a virus-induced (viral) infection of the upper airways, including the nose and throat. As part of the runny nose, inflammation of the mucous membranes occurs there (epithelium), whereby the secretion is stimulated in the course. This excretion of the secretion manifests itself together with other complaints as a runny nose.
A distinction must be made between the cold and the flu, which is mistakenly popularly used to describe a cold. A flu (Influenza) is triggered by influenza viruses and is much more difficult than a cold. In order to differentiate this from the flu, the term “flu-like infection” is also common for a cold.


Cold viruses reach our nasal mucosa via small droplets (droplet infection). Either someone was directly enjoying us or coughing, or we were infected from the damp, cold air.
The term "cold“Has its justification: When we freeze, there is a change in the blood flow in the nasal mucous membrane and it is easier for the viruses to penetrate the mucous membrane. Viral infection (infection with viruses) of the nasal mucous membrane occurs.


"A cold comes three days, stays three days and goes three days!"

The runny nose often starts in the first few days with an unpleasant tickling in the nose, a scratchy nasopharynx and an excessive urge to sneeze. After about three days we then regularly need our handkerchief to hand because the nose is "running", i.e. gives off a watery secretion.

Read more on the topic: Burning nose

More and more we are fed up. The nasal mucous membrane swells up and we can barely breathe through our nose. Our sense of smell (but not our sense of taste!) Also lets us down. If our nasal breathing is hindered for a long time, we get headaches, tears and the secretion in the nose becomes thick and slimy-purulent (yellowish-greenish secretion). Towards the end of the cold, you feel a feeling of dryness in the nasal mucous membrane and an even thicker secretion in the nose.
Some people, often children, also develop a fever in the first few days and notice that they have sweated profusely at night.

Read more on the topic: Symptoms of runny nose


First and foremost, the diagnosis of a runny nose is based on the typical symptoms (“clinic”), which are recorded with the help of inquiries about the medical history (anamnesis) and the physical examination. If necessary, there is also the possibility of detecting the causative agent of the cold. There are various methods of isolating the virus from smears (the nose, throat), detection of viral antigens or antibodies formed in the body. In addition, the genetic makeup of the pathogen can be linked to a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), so that virus identification is possible. Alternatively, the virus can also be grown in a cell culture.
However, these described methods for detecting a cold are not carried out in the case of uncomplicated courses of a cold due to the lack of therapeutic consequences.

Differential diagnoses

Symptoms that at first glance resemble a runny nose can also have causes other than a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Hay fever is conceivable (allergic rhinitis), Inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) or leakage of nerve fluid (liquor; liquorrhea).
In addition to "runny nose" with clear, thick (viscous) secretion, hay fever often has itching of the eyes and nose, reddening of the eyes (conjunctivitis) and nasal congestion. Hay fever is triggered by pollen or grass if there is already an over-sensitivity to it. Often one finds further indications of an allergic susceptibility (disposition) in the sick: positive family history (other affected persons in the family), dark shadows under the eyes or cross furrows in the nose.
If you have a sinus infection (Sinusitis) the person affected also complains of runny nose, which makes this disease similar to a runny nose. The secretion is slimy-purulent (mucopurulent). There are also headaches, fever and pressure or pain over the sinuses. In contrast to a cold, sinus infections are mostly caused by bacteria. However, fungi or viruses are rarely the cause of the disease that resembles a cold.
Nerve fluid leakage (Liquorrhea) as a further differential diagnosis of a runny nose occurs after a traumatic brain injury (traumatic brain injury) or surgical interventions in the area of ​​the head, which may cause fistulas (non-natural connections) between the liquor space (liquor = nerve water) and the nasal cavity can form. Through this newly created connection, liquor passes into the nose and drips out as a clear liquid. In contrast to sniffles secretion, liquor contains little protein and a lot of sugar (glucose), so that the composition of the secretion can be used to distinguish it from a cold.
An important distinction must be made in linguistic usage between flu and runny nose. In contrast to a cold, influenza begins suddenly and violently with a high fever, weakness, chills, fatigue and cough. These symptoms can be accompanied by aches and pains in the muscles and limbs. After recovery, a feeling of weakness often lingers for a few weeks



A vaccination against a cold like the "real" flu (Influenza) unfortunately does not exist. More than 200 viruses are known that can trigger a common cold. In addition, these viruses are real quick-change artists, which makes the production of a vaccine impossible.

Nevertheless, natural products and the pharmacy offer us useful help. If the nose is blocked, nasal drops or sprays containing xylometazoline (Otrivin®) or oxymetazoline (Nasivin®). Especially at night they help us to sleep through the night with a clear nose. After a week, however, the nasal drops / sprays should be discontinued, as otherwise our nasal mucous membrane will get used to the application and will no longer swell without it (Privinism).

The dry mucous membrane can be treated with nasal ointments (Bepanthen®) or nasal oils (Coldastop®) in parallel. Inhalations with chamomile vapor (Kamillosan®) or salt (Emser-Salz®) have an anti-inflammatory and also pleasant property.

After using decongestant nasal drops / spays, nasal rinsing with a salt solution (Emser-Salz® solution) can cleanse the nose by rinsing out viscous secretions. The saline solution also has a disinfecting and decongestant effect.

The nasal mucous membrane produces huge amounts of secretion and mucus during a cold. The more fluid this secretion is, the easier it can flow away with the pathogens.
A sufficient fluid replacement (at least two liters per day) should therefore be ensured. Hot and lightly sweetened teas (or sweetened with honey) have the property of being quickly absorbed by the body and, on the other hand, stimulate the blood flow to the nasopharynx mucous membrane through their heat. The stronger this blood flow, the more defense cells that are transported can declare war on the pathogens.
The herbal preparation Sinupret®, available in tablet, dragee or drop form (Sinupret® forte, Sinupret® drops) also has an expectorant and soothing effect.

Read more on the topic: Runny nose therapy

Homeopathy for colds

Since a cold is a relatively harmless but often stubborn and stressful disease, many people resort to homeopathic remedies to treat the cold.

However, there are many different causes of runny nose that should be treated differently. When choosing a suitable homeopathic preparation, the severity of the cold, the consistency and color of the nasal secretions and the effects on nighttime sleep play a role. Homeopathy aims at that activate the body's own healing powers. The cause of the disease should be treated according to the principle ´´The like should be cured by the like´´.

A homeopathic remedy is also produced in certain preparation processes, an important keyword here is Exponentiation. The means is for example gradually diluted with water and shaken, until in many cases the actual active ingredient can no longer be detected. The therapy says that the water ´´remembers´´ the properties of the active ingredient, which contradicts the current scientific knowledge and is often criticized.

However, the homeopathy a large following and especially for harmless diseases like a cold, homeopathic medicines are bought in Germany for many millions of euros every year. Homeopathic medicines are only available in pharmacies and not generally free from side effects. With some preparations (especially those with a low potentiation), interactions with other drugs may occur or contraindications (e.g. pregnancy or certain age groups) must be taken into account.

Since in babies and children as well as in pregnant women often no chemical agents may be used against the runny nose, homeopathic remedies with few side effects are often considered for the treatment of the cold.

However, it should always be borne in mind that under certain conditions the homeopathic treatment of a cold or a cold is not appropriate or sufficient. In order to avoid serious consequences of the disease, it is important in these cases to use conventional medicine. With accompanying symptoms such as Fever, rash, insatiable nosebleed or with protracted courses this can be the case. Homeopathic treatment should also not be used for other causes of the runny nose that are not related to a cold (such as foreign bodies, tumors, injuries). Likewise, in the case of severe, chronic concomitant illnesses or illnesses in which a health disadvantage could arise by avoiding other treatment methods, homeopathic treatment should be avoided.

There are now many homeopathic medicines which can be used for colds.

A list of all to be applied homeopathic medicines can be found at:

Homoeopathy with runny nose

"Sleep is the best medicine"

Our body declared war on the viruses during our cold and needs a lot of strength to do so. Rest, warmth and sleep are therefore advisable and do not unnecessarily prolong a cold. Usually a common dandruff is over after a week.


A runny nose can occasionally affect that Sinuses or that Middle ear overlap.

At a Sinus infection (Sinusitis) the viruses have also reached the mucous membrane of the sinuses. Since the paranasal sinuses are only connected to the outside air through small openings and the drainage of secretions is difficult, a bacterial infection tends to settle on a banal virus infection (superinfection). Such a bacterial mixed infection (sinus infection) reaches mainly in children the middle ears quickly (Otitis media). The middle ears are connected to the nasopharynx via a small passage (Tuba auditiva eustachii, Tuba pharyngotympanica, Eustachian tube, Eustachian tube).


A viral one sniff is usually self-limiting. This means that the complaints are ended “by themselves” by the body's immune system and no damage that can be traced back to the cold remains.
In some cases, however, complications of the runny nose can occur, which are caused by bacteria. These include sinus inflammation (Sinusitis) or des Middle ear (Otitis media) and should be treated with antibiotics.

Runny nose in baby

The baby's airways are particularly narrow.

Babies are particularly prone to colds, and especially runny nose (Rhinitis), as the body's own defense system is not yet fully developed in babies and only has about 60 percent of its later overall strength. But a cold also has something positive for the baby in this respect, as the immune system is strengthened by every pathogen.
Babies often get sick between the third and sixth month of life the first time with a cold, since until then the so-called in breastfed children maternal nest protection given is. By antibody the mother who by the Breast milk are transmitted to the baby, various pathogens cannot cause any disease in the baby. The older the baby gets, the more agile and curious it becomes. More and more things are put in the mouth and that Risk of infection increases.
In "non-breastfeeding" mothers, the first cold usually comes earlier. Babies who are not breastfed and who were born in autumn / winter are particularly at risk.

A runny nose is very uncomfortable for a baby because they usually only breathe through their nose. It is very difficult for a baby to switch to mouth breathing. For this reason, breathing becomes very tiring for a baby with a runny nose, as the mucous membranes are swollen and the airways are still very narrow anyway.

Often you can see a baby go through a cold very restless and whimsy becomes. Sucking and drinking from the breast or from the bottle takes a lot of strength and energy. In addition, babies with colds are often hungry because they have not drunk enough due to the restricted breathing. In many cases, the virus infection also leads to a runny nose Cough, sore throat and feverwhich also bothers and weakens the baby.

There is no real protection against runny nose and colds for babies either. The risk of infection is particularly high when older siblings bring home colds from daycare or school. As a preventive measure, however, it can be ensured that the baby is, for example, from the siblings not coughed becomes. Also should be a regular and thorough hand washing carried out on the baby and all contact persons. The baby should not get their hands on objects that have previously been touched by a person with a cold, as the pathogens are over Droplet infection be transmitted.

If the baby has a cold, it needs a lot of love and attention; fresh air is also very good in such cases. Breast milk or Nasal drops with saline solution can be dripped into the nostrils, thereby swelling the mucous membranes and making breathing easier. Since babies cannot blow their noses, their nose should be wiped regularly and something vaseline prevents the skin from becoming sore.

A doctor should be seen immediately if the baby is present younger than three months old is when it high fever over 38.5 degrees developed at Refusal to drink, screaming, extreme exhaustion, breathing problems and Permanent cough.

Runny nose in the infant

A runny nose is a relatively common phenomenon in an infant. Indeed allowed to many cold medications not used in infants be why Home remedies represent the best treatments for a simple infant runny nose. The nasal passages in infants are anatomically smaller and narrower than in older children or adults, which is why the cold-related symptoms of rhinitis are often very pronounced in infants.

A treatment with Antibiotics does not make sense for an infectious runny nose, neither in infants nor in adults, as the disease usually occurs through Viruses is triggered and Antibiotics only work against bacteria. However, infants who are younger than three months old should always be presented to a pediatrician when symptoms of colds occur, as the maternal nest protection normally exists during this time, which actually protects the child from various pathogens.

Infants with a runny nose should be taken to ensure that they be supplied with plenty of fluids. Sufficient fluid can loosen the mucus in the nose and, especially at high body temperature, it has the effect of dehydrating the body (Dehydration) opposite. This usually comes in younger infants Breast milk or Infant formula in question in older infants, for example, can also chicken soup or Camomile tea be selected for increased fluid intake.

Rest and lots of sleep give the baby the opportunity to recover and have a supportive influence on the defense reaction of the body's own defense system. Great excitement and exertion that lead to violent screaming can additionally swell the airway mucous membranes and impede breathing and should therefore be kept away from the infant. The room temperature should be between 18 to 21 degrees Celsius and the living spaces should be sufficiently ventilated to generate pleasant air for the infant and its irritated mucous membranes.

The infant's nose should be gently cleaned with handkerchiefs and to avoid sore nasal skin, a Healing ointment or petroleum jelly be applied. The swelling of the nasal mucous membranes can be made easier by putting a few drops of breast milk into the nostrils or with nasal drops containing saline.

You can find more on our website Runny nose infant.

A runny nose in a toddler

A runny nose is a fairly harmless disease that is usually triggered by viruses and usually subsides within ten to fourteen days without any consequential damage. Nevertheless, it is important to take care of yourself during this time and to keep your nose clear, because an initially banal cold can quickly spread to other organ systems and have serious consequences.

For example, it is very common in young children Otitis mediathat are triggered by the runny nose and rarely increase in severe cases Hearing loss being able to lead. Also Bronchitis with shortness of breath and excruciating cough are often a consequence of a cold in small children. For this reason, it is advisable to make sure that the nose remains clear in the case of a cold toddler and that the child (without fever) spends half an hour outdoors several times a day, for example, several times a day in warm clothes to strengthen the immune system. The toddler should drink enough, preferably warm herbal tea. A runny nose in small children usually manifests itself as runny nose or nasal congestion and increased sneezing. The nasal secretions are usually colorless or yellowish, in some cases they cannot drain and are forced into the sinuses. This accumulation of secretions can lead to a bacterial infection with purulent rhinitis and inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane in addition to the runny nose caused by the virus.

The frequency of colds is greatest in kindergarten age, and the rate of colds and runny nose decreases with age. This can be explained by the fact that in kindergarten many children come together in a very small space who do not yet have a fully developed body's own defense system. For older toddlers, depending on the information provided by the pharmacist or on the package insert, mucosal decongestants such as Nasal drops or spray are given. This can be particularly important and useful at night to guarantee restful sleep. However, this should only apply to older children after consultation with a doctor and no longer than three days used, as otherwise the nasal mucosa may be damaged. The active ingredients in these nasal sprays or drops may also cause side effects in children Cardiovascular system come. Natural Salt or seawater based nasal drops can also help loosen mucus and clear your nose. Such drops can safely be taken over a longer period of time.

If other symptoms such as cough or fever occur in addition to the cold, a doctor should be consulted. A chronic runny nose can also occur in small children. In most cases this is on Allergies for example against excretions of House dust mites, pollen or grasses traced back.

Runny nose during pregnancy

Runny nose in the pregnancy occurs relatively frequently and can have many causes.
As with non-pregnant women, it can through pregnancy for example Cold viruses, allergies, or irritants get a cold.

The most common cause of a runny nose is a viral infection, even in pregnant women. It often occurs in addition Sore throat and limbs, cough, swollen Lymph nodes or an increased body temperature.
In most cases there are increased fluid intake such as bed rest and Inhalation with saline water sufficient, only in rare cases does a bacterial secondary infection occur in the course of the disease, which should also be treated with a suitable antibiotic in pregnant women. Allergies can also lead to cold symptoms during pregnancy, and this is often the case Itching of the eyes and ears.

A particular cause of runny nose during pregnancy is the so-called Rhinitis of pregnancy that is triggered by the hormonal changes during pregnancy. This also as Rhinitis of pregnancy described phenomenon is common and occurs in up to 30 percent of all pregnant women. It is a harmless runny nose that disappears at the latest after the end of pregnancy. This leads to irritation, inflammation and swelling of the nasal mucous membranes and, as a result, to the typical cold symptoms. Often there is a constantly blocked nose, a runny nose is rarely observed. Besides, it can too Tiredness, headache and fatigue come, which can be very stressful for the pregnant woman.

The causes of the runny nose in pregnancy have not yet been fully researched, an increased level of the female sex hormone estrogen however, it is suspected to be the cause. An increased level of estrogen is primarily responsible for the growth and circulation of the mother cake (placenta) and the uterine lining, but the production of nasal secretions is also increased, which could be the cause of the development of the runny nose.

The use of decongestant nasal sprays can be tried, but the recommended period of one week should not be exceeded. Long-term use of decongestant nasal drops can also lead to permanent nasal congestion (Privinism) come. The treatment of the cold of pregnancy usually begins with light physical training, sufficient fluid intake and sufficiently high humidity (e.g. sauna visits). If these measures are not sufficient to alleviate the symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.

Exercise while having a cold

Exercise can also be stressful for the body.

If you have a harmless runny nose, where the only symptom is a slightly blocked or runny nose, you should get through moderate exercise there are no serious consequences to fear if one feels fit enough.

However, this principle no longer applies from the moment the runny nose is accompanied by a fever. A febrile viral infection can spread in the body in connection with the physical stress of sport, in the worst case to that heart. When the body's defense system is unable to fight the virus, it can become one Inflammatory response of the heart muscle (Myocarditis) that may even come life threatening can be.

A runny nose is caused by an infection with viruses. Infection causes that immune system activates what fights the pathogen. If you now do sports in addition to the virus infection, that means a lot in the already ailing situation Stress on the body. You should even take a longer break from exercise - at least a week - after an illness that was accompanied by a fever. If you only had a slight cold, you can start exercising again at the latest as soon as the symptoms such as the runny nose have subsided.

In any case, you should start out moderately and slowly increase the training intensity again. In principle, it cannot be generally recommended in which situations sport can be practiced and in which not.It depends on the subjective condition and the presence of side effects such as Sore throat, cough, or fever that should be a reason to take a break from exercising. Better not to exercise if you are not feeling well or fit.

However, in many cases, taking a walk in the fresh air can help relieve cold symptoms such as runny nose, and a little exercise will help you feel better. Maximum force loads should be avoided even with a slight cold, as they weaken the body's own defense system. In extreme temperatures (very cold or very hot) it is also recommended to avoid physical stress. Sufficient fluid intake and low physical stress can even do something good for the immune system. If you have a fever, you should never exercise; in all other cases it is often an individual decision. It is important to listen to the signals from your own body; if you are exhausted you shouldn't force yourself to exercise, but take a break until you feel fit again.


Under sniff one understands the infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat) with viruses, whereby it leads to typical symptoms like Nose is running (Rhinorrhea), Sneeze, cough, fever or pain (Limbs, muscles) comes.
Various viruses are the cause of a cold: adeno-, rhino-, corona-, parainfluenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus. A cold is diagnosed mainly on the basis of the clinical picture, although methods for virus detection are also available in exceptional cases (direct virus detection, cultivation in culture, antibody detection, antigen detection, PCR). As a rule, a swab must be taken from the throat or nose - except when antibodies are detected. A cold is usually treated symptomatically with fever and pain relievers, as there is no specific therapy against viruses. In addition, there are various "Home remedies“.
To prevent a cold you should avoid contact with sick people and pay attention to hygiene, especially of the hands.
A cold must be differentiated from that caused by influenza viruses flu (Influenza), which is much more difficult.