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Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  226 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews

A quarter of the people infected with a cold virus don't get sick. What's so different about these folks?

When it comes to colds, being young is no advantage: Teenagers catch twice as many as people over fifty.

It's strange but true: If you want to tamp down cold symptoms, "boosting" your immune system is actually the last thing you want to do!

The ways colds spread may surpr

Hardcover, 245 pages
Published September 2nd 2010 by Twelve
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(showing 1-30)
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Jonna Higgins-Freese
As is unfortunately often the case in an era when it's hard to make money in publishing, I thought this book was about two drafts from being finished. A skilled editor could have helped the author narrow her scope/define her subject appropriately, or at least explain the choices she made -- lumping influenza and RSV with the common cold struck me as introducing a range of subjects so broad as to make any statements difficult to make.

In addition, Ackerman seemed to struggle with the basic task of
Sandra Strange
Sep 12, 2010 Sandra Strange rated it really liked it
What a delightful read! If you have any interest in colds, the operations of your body, viruses or science in general, you will want to read this book! In sprightly, organized, entertaining form, the book informs the reader about what colds are and aren't, how colds operate in the body, how they spread, and how you should take care of yourself to treat or avoid catching one, blasting many old wives tales and misinformation you might think true.
Jun 22, 2011 Lea rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2010, reviews
This book is informative & fun, very similar to books by Mary Roach. I would have loved to give it four stars, rather than three, but there was a sense of playfulness that was missing. I wanted more from the author's first hand perspective, more occasions of her actually becoming part of the story, such as her becoming a cold research test subject, as she did in the beginning of the book. All the same, I did enjoy it, & would definitely recommend it to fans of science or medical books.
Sep 01, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it
I give this book 3.5 stars. Ah-Choo! Is a pretty decent book about the common cold. It’s written by a journalist, and I might have preferred someone with a little more rigorous approach to the topic, but it was pretty good. One of the big things I got out of it was that the common cold is actually caused by at least 200 different viruses. For certain types of cold viruses (like rhinoviruses, which are about 40% of colds (11)), little is contained in saliva. They are mostly transmitted by way of ...more
Dec 21, 2010 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This is an interesting look at the latest research on the common cold: its causes, how it spreads, how it operates inside your body, possible remedies, and how to keep from coming down with one. The author reminds me of a less-funny Mary Roach in that she has gone out and talked to many researchers in all areas, and has gone so far as to become a part of a research study, allowing herself to be infected with a cold. Some points I learned: 1)the actual cold causes less misery than your body's ...more
May 06, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The inside flap of this book warns: “‘Ah-Choo!’ contains thought-provoking and hilarious insights into the history and biology of the common cold, including bizarre historic remedies. Reading may include … long periods of being able to talk about anything else.” Fortunately, my bf is nerdy in a sciency way and doesn’t mind my reading random and sometimes gross facts about colds.

This lively book addresses a variety of topics regarding the common cold, quoting throughout from Charles Lamb’s writin
Todd Martin
Mar 25, 2012 Todd Martin rated it really liked it
As you might expect Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your common Cold is all about the common cold ... causes, symptoms, treatments, how it spreads, and why it makes you feel like crap (it doesn't, it's your bodies immune response that creates the symptoms). Ackerman does a nice job creating an interesting book about an unpleasant topic and dispels a number of myths and highlights the pseudo-science surrounding colds and their treatment. In case you're wondering ... there is absolutely no scientif ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Debbie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Ah-Choo!" is a book about the common cold: how you pick them up, what cold symptoms are and why, who is most likely to get a cold, how cold viruses work, how your body reacts, historical views on colds and how to treat them, modern treatments and how well they work, the expert's advice on how to treat colds and prevent getting them, and trivia.

This book was generally engaging and easy to follow, but the author included a lot of scientific studies in some chapters. I liked those, but she wasn't
Feb 26, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
Ackerman goes through all the different studies that have been done on the common cold. How and where you catch one, what can factor into whether you catch one, what are the best ways to avoid catching one and research on all the cold medicines and folk remedies that claim to fight one off. There are a lot of interesting facts here about what a cold actually does to your body, what causes the different symptoms, why it is impossible to create a vaccine and many others. (Did you know that you ...more
Mar 17, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. It explained a lot about the genetics and types of cold viruses and why they are different from the influenza viruses, and how they rapidly spread, and how and why you're likely to infect people before you even realize you're sick.

Ackerman delves into the history of this common ailment, and discusses myths about how colds are "caught" and past remedies for the disease, before moving on to more modern treatments and recent studies that highlight the low levels of effica
This book tells you all about the cold--omigod all about the cold. More about the cold that you could ever want/need/desire. So before reviewing it, I have to ask "how much do you want to know about the cold?"

I am in the middle of a massive knitting project and the only way through is by a plethora of audio books. Unfortunately, when I don't go through and put everything on hold at the library, I'm left with what they have. And's not much. Unless you put things on hold, you're left wi
Beth Knight
Sep 04, 2010 Beth Knight rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, own-it
I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. Since it's from the advanced uncorrected proofs, there's a warning inside not to use quotes because some of what's in this copy may not be in the final copy, so I feel I have to be cautious about what I reveal.

I've always been kind of fascinated by colds because I used to get a lot of them. I always wondered why my throat felt like it was on fire and why the "stuffiness" seem never-ending, even after giving my nose a good, strong
Feb 07, 2011 Kerith rated it really liked it
Fascinating stuff, and yet discouraging...this book will tell you everything you ever wanted (or didn't want ) to know about the common cold: why we catch them, our immune system's role in the battle, how close we are to a cure (we're not), and what one can do about having one or not catching one...unfortunately, not a whole heck of a lot. The biggest surprise was the news that "boosting the immune system" is not necessarily a good idea - it could exacerbate your symptoms, since they are an ...more
Saji Maruthurkkara
Aug 22, 2015 Saji Maruthurkkara rated it it was amazing
As a kid I was often told not to eat cold things or not to go out in the cold weather as I might catch a cold. I now know that colds are caused by viruses and thus being in the cold or eating ice cream should not have anything to do with a cold, but I still hear my kids being given the very same warnings.

This book settles the matter once and for all. A cold has nothing to do with "cold", rather you get it by poor hand hygiene.
I was surprised to learn that factors like lack of sleep, perceived
Mary (BookHounds)
I don't think I will ever see the cure of the common cold in my lifetime, but this book makes me feel better about them and the fact that there is not much you can do but rest and recover. And everything your mom always told you is pretty much true. My mother always said to keep your hands away from your face, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, drink lots of water and have some soup. This book shows you that mom always did know best. Oh, and keep away from small children, they are ...more
Mar 27, 2011 Austin rated it liked it
A quick read that runs through the latest research into the common cold. Ackerman enters herself in trials in which she is infected with viruses that cause colds. She profiles some of the foremost researchers into colds and asks them how they treat themselves and their families. There are chapters on the viruses that cause colds, the modes of transmission and the evidence behind various cold remedies. Amusingly, she ends the book with a chapter concluding that there's not much to be done about ...more
Aug 27, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has fascinating information, wry sense of humor, and a pretty good dose of disgusting factor. The author subjects herself to be a willing victim of the most common cold all in the name of science. So scientists could look in her nose and throat, etc. Apparently, there is money in this study, although not enough to convince me to enlist.

The book addresses how the viruses are transmitted, how they work their way into the body to replicate itself, what it looks like, myths, and a whole di
Feb 12, 2012 Jayme rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
If you have ever been blind-sided by a cold from hell you will find this book informative and enlightening. For instance - did you know that the average adult will spend a year of their life in bed recovering from a cold? And that cold symptoms are not caused by the cold virus, but are our body's immune response to fighting the cold. Whatever you do to fight your cold and the authorities say you really shouldn't, don't take an immunity booster or you will make your cold worse. In this heavily ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
An interesting read that will be enjoyed by Mary Roach fans. Mostly anecdotal and not bogged down with facts and figures, there's a lot to be learned here about the research into and remedies for the common cold.

Bonus pages include TWO recipes for chicken soup as well as a few other cold soothing ideas. The ins and outs of over-the-counter remedies is quite helpful (summary: they don't work.) Although it is a little depressing to realize we are up against the incurable, at least by the time you
Dec 17, 2013 Steph rated it liked it
Interesting, but not very informative to me ( but alas I do work in healthcare). I largely agree with the author and don't necessarily agree that colds are always such a bad thing. The only thing that I found truly irritating about it was the continuous thought that convalescence is the best thing for a cold so that's what we should do. Really? Who can do that?!?!? The author made no comment that the idea is improbable to most working adults and completely impossible to mothers! Great idea, but ...more
Aug 22, 2010 Lynn rated it really liked it
I was skeptical when I received this book from a friend, that is was one of those boring technical books with too many facts that would not hold my interest. However, I was incorrect. The book had many interesting tid its of information that along with the anatomy of the common cold and all its trials and tribulations was an infomative and comprehensive book on the common cold.

Some questions it answers: Birth order and the cold, why it's ok not to make your bed, a big hit in my family and the wh
Alexander Czysz
Feb 21, 2011 Alexander Czysz rated it liked it
A very fun, quick, light read in lay terms about the causes, effect, and treatment of one of life's inevitable inconveniences. A little heavy on quotes/statistics from other sources, but overall an enjoyable look at the common cold and it's fascinating yet brief journey through our bodies. This book serves as a great reference, particularly for those who wish to dispel old wives tales and miracle cures that simple don't exist.
J. Ewbank
Apr 17, 2014 J. Ewbank rated it liked it
Ackerman has done us a great service in providing information about the common cold. Though at some points I learned more about the cold than I wanted to there are some excellent chapters. The last chapter especially tells the truth about many of the so called remedies and the reality of their efficacy. It's a keeper.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms" "Wesley's Wars" and "To Whom It May Concern"
Jul 25, 2011 Martin added it
A light, but very educational, treatise on the common cold. Nothing terribly revelatory to me, but might be very informative for those ill-informed. I do think this should be required reading for the ignorant (for lack of a better word) masses, so therefore I am going to forgo my first inkling - to give a Cliffs Notes version of the information therein - and instead urge you to read this book, just so that you'll, y'know, know more - and know better.
Troy Heerwagen
Mar 03, 2015 Troy Heerwagen rated it really liked it
I really hate getting colds and have tried to take a more scientific approach to understanding them so I can better avoid them and treat them. This book answered almost all of the questions I had, although a lot of the answers are that there are no good studies that provide answers. I recommend this book to everyone who ever leaves their home as it does have provide some basic information to be aware of and simple steps to avoid spreading the common cold viruses.
Sep 27, 2015 Alhashemiah rated it really liked it
Good book. Especially pleased by the parts about flu research history and the part about traditional treatments and remedies and the discussion about their scientific evidence.
I would recommend this book to friends and family even the ones not in the medical field. The book's language is easy to understand and not overly medical.
Nov 14, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it
Quite good! I'm really liking these one topic science books lately. The writing is excellent and I learned a lot - for instance, green snot does not mean a bacterial infection (it just indicated iron in the mucus) and the cold symptoms are actually caused by the good guys in our body fighting off the virus. Recommend.
Jan 16, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it
This was a quick and easy read that managed to be funny while still presenting a lot of information about how the common cold has been studied and what we know about it so far. The section that detailed the efficacy of various remedies was less than interesting (and I didn't learn anything new from it), but the bulk of the book was worthwhile.
Oct 25, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
An interesting history of and practical advise for dealing with the common cold. If you have a favorite remedy for the cold, you may not want to burst your placebo bubble. This book also debunks many of the myths that abound about how to not get sick and how to cure yourself. The only scientifically proven treatment for shortening the cold? Empathy.
Chris Pederson
Apr 05, 2013 Chris Pederson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
a wonderful book about the science behind colds and remedies... (those 'immune boosters'.. they do nothing, those products that promise to prevent colds.. they do nothing) A cold normally lasts 5 - 7 days no matter what you do. Interesting point.. did you know that you should not give cold medicine to children? there is no evidence that it actually does anything and can actually harm kids.
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Jennifer Ackerman's most recent book is Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body. Her previous books include Chance in the House of Fate: A Natural History of Heredity, and Notes from the Shore. A contributor to National Geographic, The New York Times, and many other publications, her articles and essays have been included in several anthologies, among them Best American Science ...more
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