Why do we call a cold a cold?

Have you ever wondered why we call the runny nose, coughing and sneezing phenomenon that plagues us every year as “cold”? If your answer is yes, then look no further because in this article, we will shed some light on the origins of the common cold’s name. Get ready to put on your imaginary lab coat and scientist glasses as we delve into an investigation worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

What Exactly Is a Cold?

Before delving into the history behind naming the common cold, let’s first understand what it is. A cold is a viral infection primarily affecting our respiratory system. It causes symptoms such as congestion, sore throat, coughing and sneezing. The viruses responsible for causing a cold are typically transmitted via contact with contaminated objects or through respiratory droplets from infected people when they talk or cough.

So Why Is It Called A “Cold”?

The short answer? No one really knows! There are several theories out there about how this term came into existence but none of them have been proven or unanimously accepted.

Theory #1: Chills and Sniffles

One theory suggests that calling it a ‘cold’ could come from observations made by physicians who noticed people getting ill during colder months. As winter approached each year doctors would see more patients coming in with chills (a feeling of being cold despite not actually having low body temperature) along with sniffles which led to describing these illnesses as ‘colds’. However this theory does not explain why flu-like symptoms also fall under the same category, especially considering influenza can occur at any time throughout the year.

Theory #2: Early 16th-Century Usage

Another possibility dates back to Old English times when diseases were often referred to as ailments based on their visible signs/symptoms rather than actual scientifically-proven medical reasons like today. The word ‘cold’ appeared in this sense as early as the 1500s, used to describe people who had visibly chilled skin or felt cold all over their body. However there is no evidence linking this context of the term with respiratory infections.

Theory #3: Latin Origins

One more theory involves tracing back the origins of calling an upper respiratory tract infection a “cold” to ancient Latin physicians. They believed that mucus was built up due to excess phlegm from an imbalance in bodily fluids, which caused people’s noses and throats to become blocked – resulting in “cold-like symptoms”. This could be seen as one plausible explanation for why we refer to these symptoms today with a similar word like ‘cold’. Nevertheless, there is very little concrete proof supporting it too although it does make for an interesting discussion at medical conferences.

Common Cold Myths That You Probably Believe

Now that we have looked into potential explanations behind how common viral illnesses became known as “colds”, let’s debunk few common myths regarding them!

Myth #1: You Can Catch A Cold From Being Exposed To Cold Weather

While being exposed directly to extremely low temperatures can lead our immune system feeling rundown and depleted, leading us more prone picking up bugs when encountered by germs; actually catching a cold doesn’t necessarily come from being outside in chilly temps themselves. On another hand air dryness indoors during colder months creates harsh conditions within nasal passages making them less effective at filtering out foreign pathogens thus leaving you more susceptible without ample protective measures such as regular hydration throughout your day-to-day routine.

Myth #2: Green Mucus Means You Have A Serious Infection

Green snot isn’t always indicative of needing extra attention/care just because its color might look ‘worse’ than usual clear mucous membranes otherwise produced daily/when healthy. The reason behind its appearance has been linked both to beneficial immune system response efforts such as fighting off potential harmful bacterias which lead to stronger more viscous mucus membranes for defense mechanisms while also a byproduct of the magnitude of excess inflammation in her respiratory tract making you feel your symptoms even worse. So now you weigh the benefits between fully clearing passages with appropriate medication or letting it handle itself naturally.

Tips To Prevent Getting A Cold

Prevention is better than cure so here are some handy tips to avoid catching those pesky cold germs!

Keep Your Hands Clean

Hand hygiene is paramount in preventing the spread of illnesses such as colds, washing your hands regularly with soap and water helps remove any underlying pathogens lingering around on surfaces we come into contact throughout our day-to-day routine which hand sanitisers have proven effective against certain germs.

Practice Respiratory Etiquette

Upper respiratory infections can be easily passed from one person to another via droplets when an infected person talks/coughs/sneezes within six feet radius of anyone else. Covering mouth/nose when coughing sneezing thusly hitting hard surface instead leading towards airborne pathogens hanging longer e.g., covering them up surfaces themselves cleaning regularly all make important factors reducing transmission rates altogether.

Stay Hydrated Physically And Mentally

Studies show that good hydration levels greatly affect a wide range of bodily functions including production and function levels antibodies found throughout our bloodstreams necessary both before getting sick as well recovery once illness sets in – being mentally hydrated just keeps us focused and able tackle tasks throughout day despite low energy levels, aiding focus productivity seen lesser susceptibility hence great preventive measure altogether kind-hearted joke thrown at someone said perform better after few cups joe keep body mind running smoothly together think outside box!


Although there may not be concrete evidence behind where “cold” came from, it’s still interesting (and sometimes amusing) thinking about how different diseases received their names. Now that we have debunked few common myths and reminded ourselves of some preventive measures, let’s go forth with new knowledge (and sanitizer) – being mindful not spreading those germs everywhere whilst plowing through next cold season like boss! Stay hydrated mentally and physically, practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, listen to your body when it needs rest or additional care.

Random Posts