What Causes a Cold?

The common cold is primarily caused by viruses, most commonly rhinoviruses. These viruses infect the upper respiratory tract, including the nose and throat, and lead to the symptoms associated with a cold. Other viruses that can cause colds include coronaviruses, adenoviruses, and enteroviruses.

The transmission of cold viruses occurs through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing tiny virus-containing droplets into the air. You can catch a cold by inhaling these infected droplets or by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Several factors can increase the risk of catching a cold:

  • Close Contact: Being in close proximity to an infected person increases the chances of getting infected.
  • Touching Your Face: Touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes, with contaminated hands can introduce the virus into your body.
  • Weakened Immune System: A weakened immune system due to factors like stress, lack of sleep, or other illnesses can make you more susceptible to cold viruses.
  • Season: Colds are more prevalent in the fall and winter months, possibly due to people spending more time indoors in close contact with others.

Once the cold virus enters your body, it attaches to the cells lining your respiratory tract and begins to multiply. Your immune system then launches a defense against the invading virus, leading to inflammation and the characteristic cold symptoms, which may include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild headache
  • Mild fever (in some cases)

The symptoms of a cold are typically mild and resolve on their own within a week or two. Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications for symptom relief are usually sufficient for managing a cold. However, if symptoms are severe, persist for an extended period, or are accompanied by high fever or difficulty breathing, it’s essential to seek medical attention, as it may indicate a more serious respiratory infection.