What Causes the Common Cold? By: Katie Hiler


The article, “What Causes the Common Cold?”, discusses questions such as, where the common cold comes from, weaknesses associated with it, how it spreads, and, most importantly, how far research has come in finding a vaccine for the common cold. Two researchers, Fred Adler and Jeff Bender, join Ira Flatow in an interview. Adler highlights that there exists six different kinds of colds. The only one that can be told apart from the others is Influenza, because of the severity of the sickness. In Bender’s research, he discovered that most cold symptoms are linked to human interactions with animals. Adler adds on by saying that these viruses are always evolving in our stomachs, and when humans are unable to combat the sickness any further, they start to experience some cold symptoms.

Adler further states that a vaccine for the common cold is very difficult to find because there are so many different viruses. One caller on the show asks, "Why is it called the common cold?" Adler responds by stating that symptoms are more likely to be experienced in the wintertime opposed to other seasons during the year. Also, cells are less productive in combatting these viruses when they are slightly chilled, so the cold weather only weakens the cells further. Adler states that cold viruses are so difficult to study because although they are easier to see with new, advanced technology, scientists can’t seem to find any patterns in their behavior. Additionally, cold vaccines are not critical for humans because colds are not as dangerous as other sicknesses. This leads us to as the question, will the vaccine ever need to be used if it is created? Adler believes that a vaccine for the virus will come in the near future, but he does not see it as a pressing issue for the public.

The cold virus weakens the immune system which causes the body to begin experiencing symptoms such as a runny nose


This article demonstrates an in depth study on symptoms of the cold virus and how it can be contracted by humans. Researchers all across the world have been looking for a vaccine for the common cold, but the greatest problem that they face is that there are hundreds of different viruses associated with the common cold. Therefore, finding a cure to one of these will not be a tremendous advancement. Also, the symptoms of the common cold are only experienced in the body for a few days, so finding a vaccine for this would not be as useful as finding vaccines for life-threatening illnesses. Chances are, even if a vaccine is discovered by scientists, nobody will feel the need to go out of their way to pay for the vaccine because the human body can recover from a mild sickness, such as the cold, by itself in a short period of time.

In the end, the common cold has been around for hundreds of years, and scientists have been searching for a cure during the past century. It is extremely difficult to track the behavior of these viruses because of their random patterns of behavior, and the number of different common cold viruses that exist. It is not worth the time or the money for scientists to find a cure for this mild sickness, when there are more pressing issues to confront, such as possibly finding a cure for cancer.

Scientists are able to see the virus, but it is hard to track the viruses random behavioral patterns

Big Takeaway:

This article drew my interest because as winter approaches and hockey season has officially begun, I have already started to experience minor cold symptoms. While they do not hold me back from going to school or playing sports, it is a hassle to continuously get out of my seat in class to retrieve a box of tissues on the opposite side of the room. I am interested in reading about a possible cure for the common cold in the near future, but as the researchers stated, this is not a pressing issue because of the mild impact that is has on the body. I would be especially intrigued to hear more theories about where the cold initially came from hundreds of years ago. In the end, I found this Science Friday article extremely interesting because the common cold has an impact on almost everybody’s lives at this time of year, and it was compelling hearing the two researchers offer their opinions on the issue at hand.


Created with images by Creativity103 - "virus cells" • DasWortgewand - "microscopes science hospital"

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