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The Common Cold

Understanding the Common Cold

Sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose-everyone knows the first signs of a cold, probably the most common illness known. Although the common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting 1 to 2 weeks, it is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work. People in the United States suffer 1 billion colds each year, according to some estimates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million school days are lost annually in the United States due to the common cold.

Children have about 6 to 10 colds a year. One important reason why colds are so common in children is because they are often in close contact with each other in daycare centers and schools. In families with children in school, the number of colds per child can be as high as 12 a year. Adults average about two to four colds a year, although the range varies widely. Women, especially those aged 20 to 30 years, have more colds than men, possibly because of their closer contact with children. On average, people older than 60 have fewer than one cold a year.

The cold season

In the US, most colds occur during the fall and winter. Beginning in late August or early September, the rate of colds increases slowly for a few weeks and remains high until a March or April decline. The seasonal variation may relate to the opening of schools and to cold weather, which prompt people to spend more time indoors and increase the chances that viruses will spread to you from someone else.

Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect the prevalence of colds. The most common cold-causing viruses survive better when humidity is low-the colder months of the year. Cold weather also may make the inside lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
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