People in the United States make more visits to the doctor for colds more than for any other condition, according to the American Lung Association. Most adults typically get two to four colds a year, while children average six to eight.
Usually within three days after contracting a cold virus, symptoms start that include: runny nose, congestion, sneezing, scratchy throat and cough, Young children may get a fever. Headache, fatigue and muscle aches, and watery eyes may also accompany colds, although a fever of more than 102 degrees with nausea may be signs of the flu.
Why Do We Get Colds? Colds enter the body through the nose or mouth. The virus can become airborne when a sick person coughs, talks, or sneezes. The virus can also be spread by contact with a sick person.
"Most colds stem from viruses that are spread from person to person through close contact," said William Schaffner, MD, professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. "We inhale the virus-laden air that others have exhaled." Aside from airborne causes, we can "catch a cold" when we have the virus on our hands and touch our face, mouth, or nose.
"You can catch a cold even when you cannot recall being around anyone with a cold," said Dr. Schaffner. "It's not really a mystery — people can excrete [exhale] the cold virus for at least 24 hours before they become sick. Thus, the person we caught the cold was without any symptoms when they passed the virus on to us."