Rhinovirus Infections

More than any other illness, rhinoviruses (rhin means “nose”) are associated with the common cold. Rhinoviruses may also cause sore throats, ear infections, sinus infections, and to a lesser extent, pneumonia and bronchiolitis (an infection of the small breathing passages within the lungs).

The average child has 8 to 10 colds
during the first 2 years of life.
Adults suffer from 2 to 6 colds.

Rhinoviruses are spread easily through person-to-person contact. When a child with a rhinovirus infection has a runny nose, nasal secretions get onto their hands and from there onto tables, toys, and other surfaces. Your child might touch the hands or skin of another child or toys that have been contaminated by the virus. If she or he then touches her own eyes or nose, it may result in infection. Otherwise, children can breathe in airborne viruses spread by a sneeze or cough.

Although you or your child can develop a cold at any time of the year, these infections are most common during autumn and spring.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of the common cold are familiar to everyone. A cold may start with a watery, runny nose that has clear discharge. Later, the discharge becomes thicker and is often coloured brownish, grey, or greenish. This coloured nasal discharge is normal as you begin to recover from the cold.

You may also develop symptoms such as

  • Sneezing
  • A mild fever (101°F–102°F or 38.3°C–38.9°C)
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • A decrease in appetite
  • In some children, pus will appear on the tonsils, which could be a sign of a streptococcal infection

The incubation period for a rhinovirus infection is usually 2 to 3 days. Symptoms generally persist for 10 to 14 days, sometimes less.

What You Can Do

When you or your child have a cold, make sure you are getting enough rest. You should drink extra fluids if you have a fever. If you are uncomfortable, you can take paracetamol to reduce the fever. Don’t take over-the-counter cold remedies or cough medicines without first consulting with your doctor. These over-the-counter medicines do not kill the virus and, in most circumstances, do not help alleviate symptoms.

Adults generally don’t need to be seen by a doctor when they have a cold. Nevertheless, contact your doctor if your or your child have symptoms such as

  • Lips or nails that turn blue
  • Noisy or difficult breathing
  • A persistent cough
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Ear pain, which may indicate an ear infection


Most rhinovirus infections are mild and do not require any specific treatment. Antibiotics are not effective against the common cold or any other viral infections.