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Common Cold Center

Cold Causes and Risk Factors

What causes the common cold?
A cold virus enters your body through your mouth or nose. Colds are highly contagious and most often spread when droplets of fluid that contain a cold virus are transferred by touch. That's why you can get a cold by touching your eyes or nose after you touch surfaces with cold germs on them. Hand-to-hand contact or shared objects (utensils, computers, towels, toys, telephones, etc.) can cause you to catch a cold. You can also inhale the germs; the virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks.

Risk factors
Cold viruses are almost always present. But a few risk factors can increase your chances of getting a cold. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person''s chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity or a demographic. Risk factors for catching a cold include:

Age - Infants and preschoolers are more likely to catch colds

Immune system health - Weakened immune system or allergic reactions can increase your risk of getting a cold

Season - We are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter. Winter season and cold weather are prime times for colds, influenza (flu), and other respiratory illnesses because our bodies are most vulnerable to them. This is because we spend more time indoors with others, giving a contagious cold the advantage of spreading quickly.

To learn more about the common cold, and to identify the difference between symptoms of a cold versus the flu, continue reading. The next section will teach you how to identify cold vs flu symptoms.

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