At some point in your life you have likely suffered from the common cold. This is because colds are the most common disease that infect humans and is the main reason that kids miss school and adults miss work. The average adult experiences two to three colds a year, while children can have up to 12 colds a year.1

What causes this infection and why is it so common?

Viruses are the cause of the common cold, with over 200 different types of viruses known to cause this infection. Of these, the most common culprit is the rhinovirus, which has over 100 different subtypes.1,2Each of these viruses cause a cold, which all have very similar symptoms, but each virus causes its own unique infection.

Each time you have a cold your immune system responds to the infection and creates immunity against that particular virus. This immunity will protect you from getting future colds from that specific virus but it won’t protect you from any of the other over 200 viral causes. This is why you can have so many colds throughout your lifetime.

So even though you have had a cold, you should still take preventative measures to avoid future infections. To reduce your risk of getting a cold:2

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • Avoid sharing food or drinks
  • Avoid people who are sick


  1. UptoDate. Common Cold Overview. Updated January 25, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2108.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Updated February 12, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018.

Carrie Noriega | MD

Dr. Carrie Noriega is an experienced physician and writer who is passionate about helping empower people to take charge of their own health. She enjoys taking complex medical information and writing it in an easy to understand manner to help people live healthier, happier lives.