You know the signs of getting a cold; sneezing, runny nose and scratchy throat. The cold is the most common illness known: it’s the leading cause of doctor’s visits and the number one reason for missing school or work.

As a matter of fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), well over 20 million school days are missed each year in the US due to the cold.

Here are some numbers:
• Children average more than 6-12 colds annually.
• Adults average 2 -4 cold a year, though it can vary
• Women ages 20-30 have more colds than men
• People older than 60 have about one cold a year
• Some estimates say that in a one year time frame, people in the US suffer 1 billion colds

What are the causes of the common cold?

There are more than 200 different viruses that are known to causes the symptoms of the common cold. The Rhinoviruses, of which there are more than 100 types, are the major known cause of the common cold in adults which account for up to 40% of infections.

They are most common in the fall, spring and summer. They grow best at the same temperature as the temperature inside the nose.

Coronaviruses are responsible for approximately 10-15% of common colds in adults and are most common in winter and early spring when the prevalence of rhinoviruses is low.

Some other viruses implicated are adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses and influenza viruses.

The cause of about half of the common colds are unknown.

How do you get infected by cold viruses?

Mostly from touching contaminated surfaces, such as telephones, door knobs, etc., and then touching nose or eyes. Also transmission is possible through inhaling airborne droplets of mucus in the air.

Is it common to get a fever when you have a cold?

Fever is uncommon in children over three and rare in adults. In infants and young children a fever if present is slight but can climb to 102F.

How long does a cold last?

Symptoms can last from 2 to 14 days, with most people recovering after a week. If symptoms last much longer than 2 weeks it may be an allergy and not a cold.

Are there any complications to the common cold?

Colds do occasionally lead to bacterial infection of the sinuses or middle ear which would require the use of antibiotics.

Is there a cure for the cold?

No. And there is not a preventive measure like a vaccine for the cold either. Due to the incredible amount of different viruses that cause the cold, making a vaccine is going to be extremely difficult.

You can however do the following to relieve the symptoms of the cold:

• Bed rest
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Gargling or using throat sprays/lozenges
• Taking Tylenol for headache or fever

What are some of the myths about the common cold?

Three of the most common misconceptions about colds are:

• You get a cold from exposure to cold weather or from getting chilled or overheated.
• You get it from factors like exercise, diet or enlarger tonsils.
• The use of large quantities of vitamin C will prevent colds.

What about the use of over the counter medications and antibiotics?

Nonprescription cold medicines and antihistamines may relieve the symptoms related to a cold, but they will not prevent or shorten the length of your cold. The same goes for the use of steam, it may relieve the symptoms of congestion, but it is not an effective treatment.

NEVER take antibiotics to treat a cold, they do NOT kill viruses.

What about prevention?

Wash your hands frequently and teach your children to do the same. Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose since that’s where the virus enters. Avoid being close to people with colds and avoid people when you have one. Cover your nose or mouth when you cough or sneeze. Everything your mother harped on since you were young.