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How to Catch a Cold is a 1951 American animated educational short film which shows how to avoid catching a cold. The film was delivered to Walt Disney Productions on June 21 and it was released on August 1, 1951. An updated version of this short was released in 1986 with live-action segments.

1951 Version Plot


It shows a "common" man with a common cold (and also red hair) and a tiny man named Common Sense. The man is complaining of feeling sick and he wishes he didn't have to go to work. Common Sense replies "Well, don't tell me you're going to!" The man dismisses it as "just another cold", and complains of having had bad luck that year. Common Sense says (rather rudely) that the man's luck was fine; his judgment was bad. The man ignores him as he exercises and keeps getting back and head pains. Common Sense claims that the man keeps wearing himself down until he catches the first cold that comes his way.

To prove his point, Common Sense recalls that last Saturday, the man went to a square dance and was the life of the party, which was fine until he sat in a draft (thinking that will wear yourself down is a myth), and danced on and on until he was completely exhausted. Then he didn't get enough sleep or enough to eat the next morning, before going out to play golf and not only overdoing it, but when it starts raining, he also does not come in out of it (which does not make you weaker). Being tired made the man grumpy, which apparently weakened him even further. This went on all week, apparently, until his resistance was spent, leaving him "a pushover for the first germ that came along."

On the street and the train, people coughed and sneezed in his face. The man then comments that people are sure inconsiderate, but Common Sense says that the man is the inconsiderate one, as he coughed and sneezed into peoples' faces as well. The man still insists on going to work, because he had not been able to do anything for the last few days. But Common Sense insists that he did plenty: first, he gave his cold to his family and five coworkers who spread it to their families. His wife spread it to three of her friends at a bridge lunch, and they spread it to their families. His son, meanwhile, spread it to six classmates at school, leaving at least thirty people sick (however, since his wife is already up, she at least must be better).

The man promises he won't sneeze near anyone at work, but Common Sense says that just talking makes droplets with germs go into the air, while coughing and sneezing spreads them very far. So the man should have his mouth covered and his mouth open when blowing his nose and blow gently or else he could get an ear infection. He also says to throw tissues away, while noting that his hands and what they touch could have germs on them, so he should wash his hands and what dirty hands touch properly and dry them. The reasons, Common Sense says, is as simple as A-B-C: A-girl has a cold and she divides candy with B-boy and adds toy to C-child, resulting in three colds.

But the man still wants to go to work, arguing that his cold will run its course eventually. But Common Sense warns him that it could actually be the first symptoms of something more serious than a cold and then says that if this were a football game to protect the man, his team would be weak, while the disease's team is strong and has influenza, laryngitis, bronchitis and pneumonia as allies.

At this, the man finally decides to stay in bed, as per Common Sense's insistence. Unfortunately, however, Common Sense suddenly sneezes, and believes he has down with the cold himself, and the two settle down into bed together.


An educational short made for Kleenex showing how to avoid catching a cold. Naturally, the use of Kleenex Tissues is a big help.

1986 Version Plot


The updated version was made by the Walt Disney Educational Media Company. It is shown mostly in live-action, with a young boy (played by David Faustino) sick in bed with a cold. From a Disney book on his shelf, the voice of Goofy, assuming the role of Common Sense here, tells the boy how one can catch a cold. Along the way, Goofy dispels the myths that colds can be caused by being in a draft or out in the rain, as the original short claims (along with claims that colds can be caused by being out in snow or from overwork); the truth is, colds are caused by germs known as viruses. Goofy then tells the boy some of the mistakes that he might have made that lead to his cold (for example, touching things touched by other people who already had a cold and then putting his hands by his eyes, nose or mouth), and how to protect himself so he won't spread the cold to other people. In addition to getting lots of rest, Goofy advises the boy to eat balanced meals and exercise a lot, while cautioning that even healthy people can get a cold once in a while. This version makes use of clips of Disney shorts of the past (including the original How to Catch a Cold) to emphasize Goofy's points.

The boy's mother, revealing his name to be Jeff, checks on him.

Featured clips


1951 version

1986 version