What is the science behind a cold?
Most adults will catch a cold two or three times a year and for children it can be up to six times a year,1 but did you ever wonder what exactly a cold is? Simply put, a cold is a viral infection caused by a wide range of viruses, with the rhinovirus family being the most common cause.1
While having a cold is certainly annoying, it usually doesn’t take long to clear up. Symptoms generally start to ease after a few days and disappear within a week. A person can be contagious from the day before the illness breaks out and can remain infectious for several weeks. Symptoms typically appear two to three days after infection.1
What is a cold?
A cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (the upper respiratory tract). Many types of virus can cause a cold, but they are most commonly caused by viruses from the rhinovirus family. There are over 100 subtypes of rhinovirus – about half of all colds are associated with rhinoviruses, and this proportion can increase to 80% in the autumn.1
A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. It can also spread through droplets in the air, or through direct or indirect contact with an infected person, object or surface. Once in the body, viruses use their own chemical and genetic strategies to escape your body’s natural defence systems.2
In response to a virus, your body’s immune system will spring into action: white blood cells, antibodies and other mechanisms work to rid your body of the virus. Indeed, many of the symptoms that make a person feel ill during a cold (fever, headache, tiredness) results from the activities of the immune system trying to eliminate the infection from the body.2