Common cold, a health issue each of us encounters multiple times during our lives, usually requires us to deal with symptoms lasting 10-12 days. Why does this ailment last so long? An average adult experiences more than 150 colds throughout their lifetime. However, there is still no definitive solution for treating the common cold.

Causes of the Common Cold and Virus Diversity

Why Does the Common Cold Last So Long? Science Explains

The common cold can be caused by at least 8 different virus families, each containing various subtypes. This diversity is one of the major factors that complicates treatment. For example, rhinoviruses account for 30% to 50% of colds, and if rhinovirus infections could be completely eradicated, it would be a significant achievement against the common cold.

Entry and Defense Methods Against Common Cold Viruses

Why Does the Common Cold Last So Long? Science Explains

Common cold viruses mostly enter the body through the respiratory tract, and most symptoms are a result of our immune system’s response to fighting the virus. However, vaccines and antiviral drugs, the two main methods of combating viruses, are not sufficiently effective due to the diversity and mutation capability of these viruses. Particularly, the first vaccines developed for rhinoviruses were unsuccessful because it was not known that the virus had many subtypes.

Effectiveness and Challenges of Antiviral Drugs

Why Does the Common Cold Last So Long? Science Explains

Antiviral drugs target the way viruses take over cells, but the ability of viruses to mutate in areas inaccessible to drugs complicates this treatment method. As a result, there is currently no fast and definitively effective treatment method for the common cold. Therefore, treating the common cold takes time and requires patience.

Source: TED-Ed

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