Risk Factors for Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)
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Risk Factors for Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop a cold or influenza with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing a cold or influenza. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

The vast majority of the population in any given area may get colds or influenza during the course of a year. The average rate for adults in the US is three or four infections per person per year. Children get even more.

Risk factors include:

Smoking

Smoking greatly increases the frequency of colds in adults, and smokers are at higher risk for complications from colds and the flu.

Poor Hygiene

Colds and influenza are passed through person-to-person contact, so people who do not wash their hands are at higher risk of spreading and contracting colds or influenza. Also, touching your nose, mouth, and eyes with contaminated fingers can spread germs to yourself.

Crowded Populations

People in crowded living conditions are at increased risk of cold and influenza infections.

Medical Conditions

People who are sick, especially those with a condition that compromises their immune systems, are at greater risk of complications due to colds and influenza. Women who are pregnant are also at increased risk of complications.

Age

Children and the elderly are at increased risk for complications.

References

Beers MH, Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy . 17th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons; 1999.

Drug Facts and Comparisons . 56th ed. Facts and Comparisons; 2001.

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.



Last reviewed January 2007 by Kari Kassir, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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