Causes of Common Cold

Cold symptoms can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. Each can bring the sneezing, scratchy throat and runny nose that can be the first signs of a cold. The colds we catch in winter are usually triggered by the most common viral infections in humans, a group of germs called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses and a few other cold-causing viruses seem to survive best in cooler weather. Their numbers surge in September and begin to dwindle in May.

During summer months, the viral landscape begins to shift. “Generally speaking, summer and winter colds are caused by different viruses,” says Dr. Michael Pichichero, a pediatrician and infectious disease researcher at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute in New York. “When you talk about summer colds, you’re probably talking about a non-polio enterovirus infection.”

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)1

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Back to: « Common Cold

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Causes of the Common Cold

Many different viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses can also trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections. Other viruses that can cause colds include respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, and human metapneumovirus.

Source: CDC Features2

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Acute bronchitis, or chest cold, often occurs after an upper respiratory infection like a cold, and is usually caused by a viral infection. The most common viruses that cause acute bronchitis include:

When you have bronchitis, the airways in your lungs swell and produce mucus, which causes you to cough.

Source: CDC3

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Mycoplasma pneumoniae: The most common type of illness caused by these bacteria, especially in children, is tracheobronchitis, commonly called a chest cold. This illness is often seen with other upper respiratory tract symptoms, like a sore throat.

Sometimes M. pneumoniae infection can cause pneumonia, a more serious infection of the lungs, which may require treatment or care in a hospital.

Source: CDC4

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Human parainfluenza viruses: HPIV types 1 to 4 can cause a full spectrum of respiratory illness, including the common cold, croup, and severe lower respiratory tract illness, such as bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Source: GOV.UK5

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Respiratory syncytial virus: RSV is one of the common viruses that cause coughs and colds in winter.

Source: GOV.UK6

Causes List for Common Cold

Some of the possible causes of Common Cold or similar disorders may include:7

... Full Causes List for Common Cold »

Genetics of Common Cold

Consider the common cold virus, for example. Anyone who comes in contact with the virus could become infected. However, some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them more likely to get sick. If you know this ahead of time ...8

... More on Genetics »


See also cause information for related diseases:

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  1. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): issue/ jun2012/ feature2
  2. Source: CDC Features: features/ rhinoviruses/ 
  3. Source: CDC: getsmart/ community/ for-patients/ common-illnesses/ bronchitis.html
  4. Source: CDC: pneumonia/ atypical/ mycoplasma/ index.html
  5. Source: GOV.UK: guidance/ human-parainfluenza-viruses-clinical-and-public-health-management
  6. Source: GOV.UK: government/ collections/ respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv-guidance-data-and-analysis
  7. Source: Algorithmically Generated List
  8. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2006/ February/ docs/ 01features_01.htm

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.