Fight the common cold with common sense

Woman blows her nose into tissueAccording to the National Insitutes of Health, Americans catch 1 billion colds a year.  In fact, the common cold is the leading reason for doctor visits and for missing school and work.

Although scientists have not found a remedy for the common cold, they do understand about how colds are spread.  One study found that forty to ninety percent of people with colds had cold viruses on their hands.  These “cold” bugs were also found on about fifteen percent of nearby objects such as doorknobs, telephones, coffee cups and glasses.

One sure way to “catch” a cold virus is to get a dose of it directly in the upper nose, where the temperatire and humidity are ideal for growth.  If you touch objects with cold viruses on them and then put your hands to your nose, the virus may multiply in your nose.  Rubbing your eyes may have the same effect, since the virus can pass through the tear duct into the upper nose.

Wash your hands:  The most effective way to keep a cold from spreading is handwashing.  Wash your hands often, with soap and water, and try to avoid putting your fingers to your nose or eyes.

Do not share:  Do not share drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person with the cold.

Use tissues:  Always sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, and then wash your hands carefully. Teach children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow when they don’t have a tissue. That way they cover their mouths without using their hands.  Remember to dispose of tissues into a plastic-lined receptacle or paper bag.

If you do get a cold, remember most colds get better by themselves and require no visit to the doctor.  But you should seek medical advice if any of the following symtoms occur:

  • Oral temperature above 103 degrees
  • Severe pain in the chest, head, stomach, ears or enlarged neck glands
  • In a child, shortness of breath or wheezing, marked irritability or lethargy
  • Sore throat combined with oral temperatures about 101 degrees for 24 hours
  • Oral temperature that remains above 100 degrees for three days
  • A fever, sore throat or severe runny nose that persists for more than a week