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Colds

Colds Overview

A cold is defined as an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus that usually affects the nose but may also affect the throat, sinuses, eustachian tubes, trachea, larynx, and bronchial tubes but not the lungs. The cold is the most commonly occurring illness in the entire world, with more than 1 billion colds per year reported in the United States alone. The common cold is a self-limiting illness caused by any one of more than 250 viruses. However, the most common causes of colds are rhinoviruses. Colds may also be termed coryza, nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, and sniffles. Everyone is susceptible to colds.

The common cold produces mild symptoms (see below) usually lasting only five to 10 days although some symptoms may last for up to three weeks. In contrast, the "flu" (influenza), which is caused by a different class of virus, can cause severe symptoms but initially may mimic a cold.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Rhinoviruses »

The common cold is an acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) characterized by mild coryzal symptoms, rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and sneezing.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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