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What causes colds?

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A cold is an illness caused by a tiny, living thing called a virus. More than 200 types lead to your misery, but the most common one is the rhinovirus, which is thought to be responsible for at least 50% of colds. Other viruses that can cause colds include coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and parainfluenza.

SOURCES: 

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Common Cold." 

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "The Common Cold." 

University of Virginia Health System: "Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold)." 

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: "Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu." 

Medline Plus: "Common Cold." 

FDA: "Colds and Flu: Time only Sure Cure." 

American Lung Association: "A Survival Guide for Preventing and Treating Influenza and the Common Cold."

UpToDate: "The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and clinical features."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Rhinovirus."

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on March 22, 2017

SOURCES: 

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Common Cold." 

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "The Common Cold." 

University of Virginia Health System: "Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold)." 

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: "Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu." 

Medline Plus: "Common Cold." 

FDA: "Colds and Flu: Time only Sure Cure." 

American Lung Association: "A Survival Guide for Preventing and Treating Influenza and the Common Cold."

UpToDate: "The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and clinical features."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Rhinovirus."

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on March 22, 2017

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How common are colds in the United States?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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