Causes of the Common Cold

Causes of the Common Cold

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract illness. Many people believe that catching a cold may be caused by not clothing warmly enough in the winter and being exposed to cold weather, this is a misconception. One of more than 200 viruses is the true perpetrator.

Inhaling virus particles from an infected person’s sneeze, cough, voice, or loose particles from when they wipe their nose spreads the common cold. You may potentially get the virus by contacting a contaminated surface that has been touched by an infected person. Doorknobs, telephones, children’s toys, and towels are all found in common spaces. Cold-causing rhinoviruses may survive for up to three hours on hard surfaces and hands.

The majority of viruses fall into one of many categories. The following are some of these organizations:

  • human rhinoviruses
  • coronaviruses
  • parainfluenza viruses
  • adenoviruses

Other frequent cold causes, such as the respiratory syncytial virus, have been identified. Other species have yet to be discovered by contemporary science. Colds are more frequent in the autumn and winter in the United States. This is mostly due to reasons such as the start of the school year and people’s desire to stay indoors. Inside, the air is usually drier. The nasal passages dry up in dry air, which might lead to illness. In cooler temperatures, humidity levels are also lower. In low-humidity environments, cold viruses have a greater chance of surviving.

Human rhinoviruses

This virus family, which includes over 100 different varieties, is by far the most prevalent cause of colds. The temperature inside a human nose is ideal for viral growth. HRVs (human rhinoviruses) are very infectious. They seldom, however, result in major health repercussions.

HRVs have been discovered to modify genes, and it is this modification that causes an overactive immunological response, according to a recent study. Some of the most bothersome cold symptoms are caused by this reaction. This knowledge might lead to significant advancements in the treatment of the common cold.


Animals are infected with a variety of coronaviruses, and people may be infected with up to six of them. Upper SARS is usually caused by this virus, which is mild to moderate (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Adenovirus, human parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus

Other viruses that may give you a cold are:

  • human parainfluenza virus (HPIV)
  • adenovirus
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

These three virus types usually produce moderate infections in adults, but they may cause severe lower respiratory tract infections in children, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems. Complications like as bronchitis and pneumonia are more likely in premature newborns, asthmatic youngsters, and those with lung or heart issues.

Croup is caused by one strand of HPIV termed HPIV-1 in youngsters. Croup is distinguished by a loud, startling sound made when an infected person coughs. Respiratory sickness is made more likely by crowded living circumstances and stress. Military recruits, for example, are more likely to get adenoviruses that cause respiratory infections, according to the CDC.


In most cases, a typical cold will pass without complications. It may spread to your chest, sinuses, or ears in certain cases. Other disorders that might arise as a result of the infection include:

Ear infection: Earaches or a yellow or green discharge from the nose are the most common signs of an ear infection. This occurs more often in children.

Sinusitis is a condition that happens when a cold does not go away and persists for an extended length of time. Sinuses that are inflamed and infected are among the symptoms.

Asthma: Difficulty breathing and/or wheezing that may be brought on by a simple cold.

Infections in the chest may cause pneumonia and bronchitis. Coughing up mucous, shortness of breath, and a prolonged cough are all symptoms.

Strep throat is a bacterial illness that affects the throat. A strong sore throat and, on rare occasions, a cough are among the symptoms.

When should you visit a doctor?

Seeing a doctor is required for colds that do not go away. If you have a temperature higher than 101.3°F, problems breathing, a chronic sore throat, sinus discomfort, or headaches, you should seek medical assistance. If a child has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher, has had cold symptoms for more than three weeks, or if any of their symptoms become serious, they should see a doctor.


Although there is no one cure for the common cold, combining treatments may help to lessen symptoms. Pain relievers and decongestants are often used in over-the-counter cold treatments. Some are accessible on their own. These are some of them:

  • Aspirin and ibuprofen are pain medications that may help with headaches, joint pain, and fever decrease.
  • Afrin, Sinex, and Nasacort are decongestant nasal sprays that may help empty the nose cavity.
  • Cough syrups are used to treat chronic coughs and sore throats. Robitussin, Mucinex, and Dimetapp are among the examples.

Complementary and alternative medicine

Alternative medicine has not been demonstrated to be as helpful as the aforementioned ways in treating colds. It does provide some alleviation for some folks.

Zinc is most helpful when given within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Vitamin C and meals high in it (such as citrus fruits) are thought to help the immune system. Echinacea is commonly suggested to enhance the immune system in the same way.

Home remedies

When you have a cold, it is recommended that you get plenty of rest and consume a low-fat, high-fiber diet. You should also drink plenty of water. Other home-care suggestions include:

  • Chicken soup’s warmth and moisture might help relieve symptoms and congestion.
  • A sore throat might be relieved by gargling with saltwater.
  • Sore throats and coughs might be relieved with cough drops or menthol sweets. The sweets cover the throat with a soothing coating that reduces irritation.
  • Bacterial development may be prevented by controlling the temperature and humidity in your house.

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