What is the Common Cold?

A cold is a common viral infection of the upper respiratory tract—namely, your nose and throat. Americans "catch" an estimated one billion colds every year. Colds affect young children more often than adults. Most adults suffer from about two to four colds per year, yet children—preschoolers in particular—may experience up to six to 10 colds annually. Each year, children miss nearly 22 million school days because of the common cold. The common cold causes a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and, in some cases, coughing and a sore throat. Colds can occur at any time during the year but are most common in the winter months.