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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Colds
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)


Alternate Names : Upper Respiratory Infection, URI, Common COLD, Viral Pharyngitis, Viral URI

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

A cold is a viral infection that affects the upper airway including the nose, pharynx, throat, airways, and lungs.

What is going on in the body?

The common cold is the most common reason that people miss work or school. There are at least 200 different viruses that cause colds. These include rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, and they are different from the viruses that cause the flu. Cold viruses are very contagious. They are airborne and are transmitted when one breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Cold viruses can be spread when a person with a cold sneezes into his or her hand or blows his or her nose and then touches an object. Cold viruses can live for up to 3 hours on a surface such as a doorknob or toy.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Colds are caused by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. Children generally have 6 to 8 colds a year, but they may get as many as 12 if they live in a family with school-age children. Adults usually have 2 to 4 colds a year, and individuals over 60 years of age have about 1 cold a year. Adults have fewer colds than children because they have developed immunity to the particular viruses that cause colds.

Under the following conditions, people are more susceptible to getting a cold:

  • during the winter months, when people are indoors with others and the humidity is lower. The cold season begins slowly in late August and goes until March or April.
  • during periods of stress
  • in women, during certain points in the menstrual cycle
  • if they have allergies affecting the nose or throat


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    Colds: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: James Broomfield, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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