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Upper Respiratory Infection (cont.)

Upper Respiratory Infection Causes

People "catch" colds when they come into contact with airborne viruses. Most often, the virus spreads from person to person in respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing. Transmission of viruses can also occur due to poor hand washing techniques An infected person may shed viral particles onto their hands and then pass on these particles to someone else through a handshake or by handing them an object such as a pen or credit card. The second person then touches their own nose, eyes or mouth, thereby acquiring the virus. Some viruses can live on surfaces such as sink faucets, door and drawer handles, table surfaces, pens, and computer keyboards for up to two hours, providing another way of spreading the infection.

People should understand that upper respiratory infections are contagious and are spread from person to person. Individuals are infected with the virus before symptoms arise and are therefore potentially contagious even before they know they are ill. Thus, hygienic measures such as covering sneezes and coughs, and regular hand washing should be a routine habit practiced by everyone even when not ill.

Rhinovirus ("rhino" from the Greek word for nose) and coronavirus are the two most common viruses causing upper respiratory infections. Other viruses including parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and adenovirus can cause colds but may also cause pneumonia, especially in infants and children.

Upper Respiratory Infection Risk Factors

Not everybody exposed to or who comes into direct contact with an ill person will "catch" their cold. People are especially susceptible if there is a decrease in the body's immune system so that the virus can begin to spread within the body and cause symptoms in the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2016

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