Cold and Flu Causes

Woman sneezing

Causes of cold and flu

More than 200 different virus subtypes are known to cause the symptoms of the common cold. An estimated 30% to 35% of all adult colds are due to rhinoviruses, while the flu is caused by the influenza virus (human influenza virus, type A and B).

Most cold and flu cases are more of a nuisance and highly treatable, but in certain populations, it can be a serious threat and can result in serious illness and death.

Help your patients manage cold and flu symptoms. Learn more about signs and symptoms and management.

Risk factors and complications

  • Risk factors

    Cold & flu risk factors icon

    Both colds and flu spread quickly through airborne droplets, personal contact, and touching of shared surfaces and items.

    The common cold

    While colds can occur anytime during the year, patients are more likely to contract a cold during the late fall and winter—since they spend more time indoors, exposed to more people in confined spaces.

    Children suffer more colds annually than adults; they’re more susceptible due to their developing immune systems and close proximity to other children at school or daycare.

    Other risk factors include:

    • Smoking
    • Compromised immune function due to chronic illness

    The flu

    • Those most at risk of the flu include:
    • Children under age 5 (especially under 6 mos.)
    • Older patients (over 65)
    • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
    • Pregnant patients
    • Patients with a weakened immune system due to disease (e.g., cancer) or medications (e.g., chemotherapy)
    • Patients with a chronic illness (e.g., asthma, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease)
    • Patients with a BMI of 40 or higher
  • Complications

    Following are common complications of cold and flu:

    • Otitis media
    • Acute sinusitis
    • Strep throat
    • Pneumonia
    • Croup or bronchiolitis in children

    Most colds and flu symptoms can be safely managed at home. Use of over-the-counter treatments like Advil Tablets or Advil Liqui-Gels can help reduce pain and fever for many patients.

Read more about cold and flu

Advil pack shots

Proven efficacy, fast onset

See how Advil delivers superior relief for common cold and flu symptoms.

Learn more

Advil mode of action

Watch the MOA

Learn about the science behind Advil.

Learn more

Patient  resources icon

Patient care resources

Access educational resources to share with your patients.

Learn more

Pill icon

Learn how to manage cold symptoms

See the management options available to help provide relief.

Learn more

Investigating symptoms icon

Cold and flu symptoms

Find out more about the symptoms of cold and flu.

Learn more

Community engagement icon

Join our community

Join the pain-relief community.

Register now