Despite great advances in medicine, the common cold continues to be a great burden on society in terms of human suffering and economic losses. Of the several viruses that cause the disease, the role of rhinoviruses is most prominent. About a quarter of all colds are still without proven cause, and the recent discovery of human metapneumovirus suggests that other viruses could remain undiscovered. Research into the inflammatory mechanisms of the common cold has elucidated the complexity of the virus-host relation. Increasing evidence is also available for the central role of viruses in predisposing to complications. New antivirals for the treatment of colds are being developed, but optimum use of these agents would require rapid detection of the specific virus causing the infection. Although vaccines against many respiratory viruses could also become available, the ultimate prevention of the common cold seems to remain a distant aim.