What is rhinovirus?

Rhinovirus is one of more than 200 viruses responsible for the common cold. It is the most common virus affecting humans, with estimates that it is the culprit in a third to a half of all colds contracted. There are about 100 types of rhinovirus, or rhinovirus, and unfortunately, no vaccine against it has yet been discovered.

Rhinoviruses can be easily transmitted through the air or by direct contact with a contaminated surface or person. Additionally, they can survive outside the body for up to three hours, only helping their chances of infecting people. Most people become infected by touching an infected object and then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. As a result, the preventive practices of washing hands and not touching the face may be recommended.

Although rhinovirus is most active in the spring through early fall, most people tend to get infected in the fall and winter. Contrary to popular belief, however, being physically cold is not a prerequisite for catching a cold. Colds are more frequent in the winter, less because people are physically cold and more because people tend to stay indoors more often, increasing the chance of cross-contamination and infection.

People infected with rhinovirus usually begin to show symptoms within two days of infection. Those symptoms typically include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, and nasal congestion. It is a virus that grows best in temperatures slightly below normal body temperature of 98.6° Fahrenheit (37.0° Celsius), which is one of the reasons it grows inside the nose and upper respiratory tract.

Unfortunately, there are no medical treatments that directly target the virus. The normal, healthy immune system can usually fight off the infection within a few days, however, doing the best way to tackle the virus includes getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids. Cold medicines usually lessen symptoms, but those medicines don't fight or kill the virus. Most infections go away in about a week.

Despite being one of the most studied and widespread viruses, scientists are skeptical that a rhinovirus vaccine will appear any time soon. Since there are so many different types of rhinoviruses, as well as other viruses that can also cause colds, it is unlikely that a vaccine will be developed that completely eliminates cold-causing viruses. Instead, health professionals generally recommend that people wash their hands regularly, keep them away from their faces, and avoid people who have already been infected.

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