MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Are germs located in the back of your throat?

Date: Tue Apr 23 20:49:24 2002
Posted By: Dean Cliver, Faculty, Food Safety Unit, Uiversity of California, Davis
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1014528477.Me

Common colds are caused by viruses that infect the "upper respiratory 
tract," which pretty much means the sinuses.  The sinuses get irritated and 
produce lots of mucus  the stuff that runs out of your nose or gets 
sneezed out.  Some of the mucus drains down the back way into your throat, 
and often comes out in coughs. This mucus with the viruses in it is the 
main way that colds are transmitted  through the air inhaled into someone 
else's nose.  
However, the mucus that drained into the throat will get mixed with saliva 
in the mouth to some extent.  There's no way to keep viruses just in the 
back of the throat.  So, there's a little bit of virus in the saliva, and a 
little bit of the saliva gets in or on the shared drink.  Swallowing the 
cold virus is a much less efficient way than inhaling the virus to catch a 
cold, but I wouldn't chance it.  Or, I'd have to be really thirsty!

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