The common cold is an infection of the nose and throat. Every year millions of people in the United States get the common cold. It is usually called “a cold.”
People get a cold when they are infected with a virus. There are more than 200 viruses that can cause colds. A type of virus called the rhinovirus causes about 50 percent of colds.
Rhinoviruses grow easily inside the human nose. The inside of the nose has exactly the right temperature for rhinoviruses to live and thrive. Rhinoviruses are most active in the spring, summer, and early fall.
Another major cause of colds is coronaviruses. These viruses are most active in winter and early spring.
Many people think that people can get a cold from being in cold weather. But there is no proof that this is true.
The most common symptoms of a cold are stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat. Headache and cough are also common. Sometimes people with a cold also have a mild fever.
Cold symptoms can last from two days to two weeks. Most of the time, people get better in about one week. Sometimes colds lead to other problems. These include a middle ear infection and a sinus infection.
Catching a Cold
Colds are very contagious. This means people can get a cold from other people very easily.
One way a person can get a cold from another person is through the air. When a person with a cold coughs or sneezes, he or she is sending cold germs into the air. People who breathe in these germs can then get a cold.
Another way people can get a cold is by touching cold germs. A person with a cold can leave cold germs on the things he or she touches, such as a shopping cart or a doorknob. If someone else touches these objects, that person can pick up the germs. If the person then touches his or her nose or mouth, the germs get into his or her body.
Children get colds more often than adults do. Children get about six to ten colds every year. They catch many colds from other children in day care or in school. Adults get about two to three colds a year.
There is no cure for the common cold. People can feel better by treating their symptoms and getting a lot of rest. Medications can help ease the discomfort of a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a headache, and a cough. Drinking lots of fluids can also make a person feel better.
People with a cold should stay home from school or from work so they do not give their cold to other people. At home, they should stay away from other people in the home as much as possible. They should also not prepare any food for others.
To keep from getting a cold, people should not touch their eyes, nose, or mouth without washing their hands first. Staying away from people who have a cold is another way to avoid getting a cold. The best protection is to wash hands often with soap and water.
Cold germs can live for three hours on surfaces, such as doorknobs. Cleaning these surfaces with disinfectant can also reduce the chances of catching a cold.