Self-care for common colds: A European multicenter survey on the role of subjective discomfort and knowledge about the self-limited course - The COCO study


Common colds are the most frequently encountered disease worldwide and the most frequent reason for self-care. According to the cross-sectional European Common Colds study (COCO), patients use as many as 12 items on average for self-care. Little is known about the influence of discomfort and knowledge on self-care for common colds.

Main objective

To understand the influence of patients’ discomfort during a cold and their knowledge about the self-limited disease course on the use of self-care measures.

Materials and methods

This COCO analysis included 2,204 patients from 22 European primary care sites in 12 countries. Each site surveyed 120 consecutive adults with a 27-item questionnaire asking about patients’ self-care, subjective discomfort during a cold (discomfort: yes/no), and knowledge about the self-limited course (yes/no). Country-specific medians of the number of self-care items served as a cut-off to define high and low self-care use. Four groups were stratified based on discomfort (yes/no) and knowledge (yes/no).


Participants’ mean age was 46.5 years, 61.7% were female; 36.3% lacked knowledge; 70.6% reported discomfort. The group has discomfort/no knowledge exhibited the highest mean item use (13.3), followed by has discomfort/has knowledge (11.9), no discomfort/no knowledge (11.1), and no discomfort/has knowledge (8.8). High use was associated with discomfort (OR 1.8; CI 1.5–2.2), female gender (OR 1.7; 1.4–2.0), chronic pain/arthritis (OR 1.6; 1.2–2.1), more years of education (OR 1.3; 1.1–1.6), age <48 years (OR 1.3; 1.0–1.5), and lack of knowledge (OR 1.2; 1.0–1.4).


Counseling on common colds should address patients’ discomfort and soothing measures in addition to providing information on the natural disease course.