Colds and flu

Updated 06 March 2019

Risk factors for a cold

If you're tired or stressed, you could be at increased risk of getting a cold. Learn more about the risk factors.

Predisposing factors that increase one’s risk for getting a cold aren’t really known.

Chilling the body surface doesn’t by itself induce colds, and the ease of acquiring a cold doesn’t correlate clearly with fitness, nutritional health or upper airway abnormalities (such as enlarged tonsils).

However, contracting a cold virus may be facilitated by fatigue, emotional distress or allergies.

Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to someone with a cold.
  • Age (babies and young children are at greatest risk).
  • Weakened immune system due to illness such as HIV or cancer, using certain medications (e.g. long-term steroid use), or organ transplantation.
  • Season: Colds are more common in autumn and winter.
  • Cigarette smoking.

Reviewed by Cape Town-based general practitioner, Dr Dalia Hack. March 2019.

Read more:

- What is a cold?

- Symptoms of the common cold


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Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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