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The common cold is a viral infectious disease that infects the upper respiratory system. It is also known as acute viral rhinopharyngitis and acute coryza. It is the most common infectious disease in humans and is mainly caused by coronaviruses or rhinoviruses.
Because there are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold, the human body can never build up resistance to all of them. This is why colds are so common and often return. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), adults get 2-3 colds per year and children may have up to 12 per year.
The common cold is contagious; it can be spread by air droplets from coughs and sneezes and by touching infected surfaces. It is contagious from 1–2 days before symptoms begin until the symptoms have stopped.
Fast facts on colds
Here are some key points about colds. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
The most common symptoms of a cold are:
The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. Around 50 percent of colds are caused by rhinoviruses, other cold-causing viruses include:
When a virus manages to overpower the body's immune system, infection occurs. The first line of defense is mucus, which is produced in the nose and throat by the mucus glands. This mucus traps anything inhaled, such as dust, viruses, and bacteria. Mucus is a slippery fluid that the membranes of the nose, mouth, throat, and vagina produce.
However, there are some precautions that can help avoid catching the common cold. These include:
It is important to realize that both antibiotics and antiviral medications are ineffective against most viruses that cause the common cold. A cold normally lasts up to 10 days; however, some symptoms can stay as long as 3 weeks.
Although there is no real way of treating or curing a common cold, the following measures may help ease the symptoms:
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