Is there a common cold constitution?

Thomas M. Ball, Catharine J. Holberg, Fernando D. Martinez, Anne L. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective.-Constitutional factors might play a role in the susceptibility to clinical illness during the common cold. This study seeks to determine if the likelihood of developing frequent common colds persists during childhood. Design.-The Tucson Children's Respiratory Study involves 1246 children enrolled at birth and followed prospectively since 1980 and 1984. Parents reported the occurrence of frequent (≥4) colds during the past year by questionnaire at 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, and 13 years of age. Blood for ex vivo interferon-γ responses was obtained at 9 months and 11 years of age. Results.-After adjustment for potential confounding variables, children with frequent colds at year 2 or 3 were twice as likely to experience frequent colds at year 6 (relative risk [RR], 2.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.1-3.9), year 8 (RR, 2.6; 95% CI, 2.1-3.3), year 11 (RR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.8-3.1), and year 13 (RR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.4-3.3) compared with children who had infrequent colds at years 2 and 3. At 9 months of age, children who ultimately experienced persistent frequent colds had lower interferon-γ titers than children without persistent frequent colds (3.05 ± 1.61 vs 3.74 ± 1.39, P = .016); this finding persisted at 11 years of age. Conclusion.-These data suggest the existence of a common cold constitution, whereby some children are more susceptible to infection and/or the expression of clinical symptoms when infected than are other children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-267
Number of pages7
JournalAmbulatory Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Common cold
  • Interferon γ
  • Rhinovirus
  • Upper respiratory tract infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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