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The common cold coughs up $40 billion annual price tag

Nearly 400 million missed work and school days occur each year at a cost of $20 billion

ANN ARBOR, MI Chances are you or someone you know is battling with a nasty cold right now. The cold bug is definitely biting its way into work places and schools all across the country, forcing millions of people to stay home.

Catching a cold isn't cheap. A new study by the University of Michigan Health System published in the February 24th edition of Archives of Internal Medicine reports that the cost to the U.S. economy is $40 billion a year substantially more than other conditions such as asthma, heart failure and emphysema.

"From a bottle of cough syrup to missed time at work and school, the price tag of catching a cold really adds up," says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., lead author on the paper and co-director of the Consortium for Health Outcomes, Innovation, Cost Effectiveness Studies (CHOICES) at UMHS. "Since there is no cure for the common cold, it does not receive a lot of attention when compared to less common conditions. We wanted to calculate the total economic impact that the cold has on our economy."

The U-M researchers conducted a nationwide telephone survey of more than four-thousand U.S. households to find out the number of self-reported cases of the common cold, as well as specific ways respondents treated their illness. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents reported suffering from a cold within the last year, with an average of 2.5 episodes.

"A cold is the most commonly occurring illness in humans, so it was no surprise that there are approximately 500 million colds each year in the U.S.," says Fendrick. "What was a surprise is how often the public uses the health care system to treat a cold."

The study measured doctor's bills, over-the-counter medication, and prescription drugs. It also recorded missed school and work days, a cost that is generally overlooked, added Fendrick.

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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
24-Feb-2003


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