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Ask Healthy Living: Can You Catch The Same Cold Twice?

04/23/2014 08:29 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2014
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I just got over a cold, and now it seems I've passed it along to my coworker. Is it possible to get sick again from her cold (which was originally my cold)?

If you really, truly are the one who passed your cold on to your coworker, then you're probably in the clear, says Dr. Mark Huffman, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor of preventive medicine and medicine-cardiology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"If one’s coworker’s cold came from the same strain of the common cold virus, a rhinovirus, then one should be immune from that virus," Huffman writes in an email to HuffPost.

That's because your body has built up antibodies and developed immunity against that particular strain of the virus, explains Dr. Roberto Posada, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital. And even if you did get infected again, it would likely be a milder form of the sickness -- so mild, in fact, that you might not even notice you were sick with it.

However, it's nearly impossible to know with 100 percent certainty that you were the one who gave your coworker the cold. "The problem is that there are so many strains of viruses [that] can cause a cold," Posada tells HuffPost. "If you have a cold, and now your coworker has a cold, it may be a different one from the one you had. Then you definitely can catch it."

The same concept applies to other viruses too, such as the flu and viruses that cause gastroenteritis. The flu-causing influenza virus, in particular, is known to mutate or change, Posada says, which is why last year's flu shot may not necessarily protect you from the strains going around this year.

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