6 Surprising Facts About the Common Cold

Over 200 Viruses Cause the Common Cold

A human cell surrounded by viruses.. Henrik Jonsson/E+/Getty Images

Many people think that colds are caused by one virus but that's just not the case. There are over 200 viruses that cause the symptoms that we refer to as the common cold. Rhinoviruses cause a majority of colds but they can be caused by coronaviruses, enteroviruses and others as well.

Because there are so many viruses that cause these symptoms, there may never be a cure for the common cold.

Antibiotics Do Not Treat Colds

Antibiotics do not kill viruses.. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

As much as people would like to think that getting a round of antibiotics will clear up cold symptoms, they won't. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Colds are caused by viruses and unless you have developed a secondary infection caused by a bacteria, antibiotics won't do anything except lead to antibiotic resistance.

Taking antibiotics when they aren't necessary makes it harder to treat future infections. Antibiotic resistance is a real problem that is only getting worse. Don't push for them when they aren't needed.

Colds Don't "Turn Into" the Flu

What could be causing that congestion?. sturti/E+/Getty Images

Colds come on gradually with symptoms that worsen over 2-3 days and then start to get better. The flu comes on suddenly - making you feel like you were "hit by a truck." Colds don't turn into the flu. They are caused by very different viruses and one cannot turn into the other.

If you have had cold symptoms for several days or a week and then you start to feel much worse, you should contact your health care provider. This could be a sign that you have developed a secondary infection.

You Can Get a Cold Any Time of Year

You can get sick any time of year.. Martin Leigh/Cultura/Getty Images

Although colds are more common during the colder winter months, they circulate year round. It is absolutely possible to get a cold any month of the year. Because the symptoms you experience may be similar to those of another illness or even allergies, it's not always easy to figure out what is making you feel bad.

Cold Weather Doesn't Cause Colds (or the Flu)

Could Frosty be making you sick?. Sharon Dominick/PhotoDisc/Getty Images

Just like colds can occur any time of year, the cold weather doesn't cause them. There is some evidence that the viruses that cause colds and the flu may circulate more easily during cold months when the air (and our nasal passages) are drier. But colds are caused by viruses, not weather. You won't get sick with a cold simply from being outside in cold weather, there have to be germs introduced into your body to make you sick.

Most of Those Social Media "Cures" Are Lies

Can Cinnamon and Honey Cure a Cold?. Juan Silva/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Everyone loves to share the tips, hacks and little known cures they find on the internet - especially on social media. Unfortunately, many of the articles, memes and "helpful" tips that are spread about how to improve your health and cure colds and the flu are completely inaccurate. Just because someone posts it online, doesn't make it true.

Sorry people, cinnamon, honey, cut onions, and elderberries are not wonder cures. The science and research just don't back up their widely shared internet claims.


"Common Cold and Runny Nose". Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work 30 Sep 13. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 12 Mar 15.

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