As a symptom of illness, sore
throat rivals fatigue for being both commonplace and a potential sign
of catastrophe. Usually, having a sore throat is nothing to worry about -- most
are caused by cold and
flu germs. In rare cases, however, a sore throat can signal something much
more serious. One of the first symptoms of infection caused by the dreaded ebola virus,
for example, is a sore throat.
And strep bacteria, a common cause of sore throat, especially in children,
can spread like wildfire...
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and parainfluenza -- responsible for 10% of colds
Rhinoviruses and the Common Cold
Rhinoviruses, the worst offenders, are most active in early fall, spring, and summer. More than 110 distinct rhinovirus types have been identified. Most rhinoviruses seldom produce serious illnesses. However, other cold viruses, such as parainfluenza and RSV, can lead to severe lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, in young children.
Coronaviruses and the Common Cold
Scientists think coronaviruses cause a large percentage of adult colds. These cold viruses are most active in the winter and early spring. Of the more than 30 kinds of coronaviruses, three or four infect humans.
Other Causes of the Common Cold
About 10% to 15% of adult colds are caused by viruses also responsible for other, more severe respiratory illnesses.
The causes of 20%-30% of adult colds, presumed to be viral, remain unidentified. The same viruses that produce colds in adults appear to cause colds in children. The relative importance of various viruses in children's colds, however, is unclear because it's difficult to isolate the precise cause of symptoms in studies of children with colds.
There is no evidence that you can get a cold from exposure to cold weather or from getting chilled or overheated.
Stress, Allergies, and the Common Cold
There is also no evidence that your chances of getting a cold are related to factors such as diet or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. On the other hand, research suggests that psychological stress and allergic diseases affecting your nose or throat may have an impact on your chances of getting infected by cold viruses. Some studies suggest moderate exercise can boost the immune system and decrease stress.
National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Common Cold."
Mayo Clinic: "Common Cold."
Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety: "Common Cold."
University of Virginia Health System: "Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold)."
Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 20, 2015