A hacking cough and runny nose are two symptoms of the cold doing the rounds. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A very contagious common cold is widespread across the UAE these days as the weather slowly moves on to winter, doctors said.

Patients with stuffed nose and a hacking cough are crowding clinics and doctors are advising people to stay at home as the common cold is very contagious.

The common cold is spread either by direct contact with infected secretions from contaminated surfaces or by inhaling the airborne virus after individuals sneeze or cough.

"Most of the people affected do not require antibiotics as it is not a bacterial infection," said Dr Lalit Uchil, specialist in internal medicine at Welcare Ambulatory Care Centre.

The doctor said the common cold can spread very rapidly and advises those who are affected not to smoke and to get plenty of rest. The symptoms of the cold are stuffy nose, blocked ears, watery eyes, low grade fever. It goes away after three days after a dose of paracetemol and anti-histamine.

A nine-year-old boy at a clinic in Discovery Gardens, who was looking miserable with a cold, said his throat hurt very badly.

Blow hot, blow cold

"This is fairly common this time of the year. It's the transition period as it feels very cold in the night if you turn on the air-conditioner or too hot when you turn it off."

But a very small minority may have the classic influenza and that requires an antibiotic. The doctor said if one has a sustained fever for five days, expectorates thick, green sputum and the lymph nodes near the neck are swollen, it is a bacterial infection. The patient will not have a runny nose and will sometimes feel dizzy. The antibiotic dose has to be taken for between five to seven days.

The specialist warned those who push their doctors for antibiotics, saying that it makes the bacteria resistant in the long run and that particular bug can no longer be treated by the antibiotic.

"You should be aware that you cannot shorten the course of the illness even by one day if you take antibiotics," he said.

Flu shot

Other doctors advise getting a flu shot just before the onset of winter to ward of the illness. Doctors and medical professionals are also advised to take the shots as they come in contact with those affected.

According to MediceNet, more than 200 types of viruses are known to cause the common cold, with rhinovirus responsible for about 30 per cent of cases.