Causes of Colds
Most viruses that cause colds are very contagious and are transmitted from person to person.
- Of the viruses that cause a cold, the most commonly occurring subtype is a group that lives in the nasal passages known as the "rhinovirus." Other less common cold viruses include coronavirus, adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
- Cold viruses may spread through the air and can be transmitted from airborne droplets expelled when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes.
- The primary means of spreading a cold is through hand-to-face or -mouth contact or from objects that have been touched by someone with a cold, or by touching items where droplets produced by coughs or sneezes have recently landed and then touching the face or mouth.
- The typical transmission occurs when a cold sufferer rubs his or her nose and then, shortly thereafter, touches or shakes hands with someone who, in turn, touches his or her own nose, mouth, or eyes.
- Virus transmission also often occurs via frequently shared or touched objects such as doorknobs and other hard surfaces, handrails, grocery carts, telephones, and computer keyboards.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2014
Must Read Articles Related to Colds
Croup is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that typically affects children under 3 years of age. Symptoms include a barking cough, cold, and low-...learn more >>
Flu in Adults
Flu (influenza) is an acute infection of the nose and throat airways. This infection may spread to the lungs. Flu is the most frequent cause of acute respirator...learn more >>
Sinus infection (sinusitis), is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages. Causes of sinus infections are a result of a viral upper respiratory tract in...learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Colds: