major cause of the common cold
spacerVisit the Germ Protection Center Archivesspacer




Mode of Transmission:

rhinovirusRhinovirus is primarily transmitted by contaminated hands carrying virus to the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose. Hands can be contaminated by direct contact with another person’s infectious agent, or by indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or articles. Inhalation of airborne droplets may also be considered.

Incubation Period:

Between 12 hours and 5 days, usually 48 hours.

Signs and Symptoms:

An acute infection of the upper respiratory tract characterized by a runny nose, sneezing, weepy eyes, nasal passage congestion, chilliness, myalgia and malaise lasting 2-7 days. Fever is uncommon in children over 3 years of age and is rare in adults. Illness may be accompanied by laryngitis, tracheitis or bronchitis and may develop into more serious complications such as sinusitis or ear infection (otitis media).


Rest, adequate fluids and medication for symptomatic relief.

Methods of Control:

1. Education emphasizing the importance of personal hygiene such as frequent hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, sanitary disposal of tissues, and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces such as faucets, door knobs, and kitchen appliance handles. Additional information on handwashing can be found by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/op/handwashing.htm.
2. When possible, avoid crowded living conditions or public situations.
3. Provide adequate ventilation.

There are more than 100 recognized serotypes of rhinovirus which account for 20 - 40% of most colds in adults. Additionally, Coronaviruses and Influenza each account for 10 - 15% of common colds in adults. Rhinovirus infection is the most frequently acquired infection in children under the age of 3 years old. Occurrence is worldwide. In temperate zones most rhinoviral colds occur in the fall, winter and spring of the year. Except in small isolated communities, children may experience 1-6 colds per year. Most adults will have 1-3 colds yearly.

The common cold is just that : common. There are approximately half a billion cases of the common cold each year in the United States alone. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 60 million of these cases result in visits to physicians' offices or restricted activity such as sick days or missed school attendance. In addition, the common cold accounts for direct spending of around US$5 billion on over-the-counter (OTC) products that relieve symptoms. The indirect cost, in terms of productivity loss, work place and school absence has been estimated to be far greater.

Despite the burden the common cold places on healthcare systems worldwide, it remains a disease without a cure. The existing OTC market is for products that help relieve some of the symptoms but do not treat the disease itself. An estimated 18 million antibiotic prescriptions are written each year in the US for patients suffering from viral respiratory infections including the common cold, but these prescriptions are for antibacterial agents that do nothing to alter the course of the viral respiratory disease. The tendency to unnecessarily prescribe antibiotics has led to an increase in bacterial resistance to antibiotics currently in use, a serious medical problem.

The Germ Protection Center is possible thanks to the generous support of Lysol.

Copyright 2004 © Visiting Nurse Associations of America