Tips to Help Prevent the Common Cold

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Colder weather is approaching, which means cold and flu season will be arriving as well. As for the common cold, this nuisance affects millions of people in the US each year; some adults develop the common cold up to three times a year, while some children have a cold up to 12 times a year.

The common cold is caused by viruses, particularly rhinoviruses, although more than 200 different viruses can contribute to the common cold. Transmission most commonly occurs through hand-to-hand contact. You can also become infected by being in close proximity to someone who is coughing or sneezing, or by coming in contact with an infected surface (such as a doorknob or countertop). There are ways, however, to reduce your chances of developing the common cold this season.

  1. Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands throughout the day for at least 20 seconds, including the spaces between your fingers and underneath your fingernails. Use a clean towel to dry after rinsing. If you’re unable to get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer until you can get to a sink. Wash after sneezing or coughing, and before handling food items.
  2. Refrain from touching your face. The nose, mouth, and eyes are easy entrance spots for cold viruses to enter and infect the body. If you come in contact with someone who is sick, don’t touch your face, especially if your hands aren’t clean.
  3. Cease smoking. This can irritate and damage your throat and lungs, making your cold symptoms much worse than they are. Secondhand smoke also creates irritation. According to a recent study, the body’s anti-viral response can become suppressed while smoking when sick. This reduces your body’s chances of fighting the infection in a quick manner.
  4. Use disposable items if around someone who is sick. If you live with a friend, family member or your child, purchase some disposable items for them to use while they’re sick, such as paper plates, plastic cups, and utensils, etc. Throw each item away after use.
  5. Clean all surfaces. If you share space at work with someone who has been sick, clean all items on your desk, including the desk’s surface. Wipe down your computer screen and keyboard, as well as your chair. At home, clean all surfaces that may have come in contact with the infected individual. Viruses can live on a surface for several hours after being touched by someone who is sick. Use soap, water, bleach, or disinfectant wipes. Clean doorknobs, phones, remote controls, toys, countertops, faucet handles, and drawer pulls.
  6. If your child is sick, wash their toys. Kids are four times more likely to develop the common cold than adults. The most common way they spread their germs is by coming into contact with toys. When cleaning your household surfaces, wash your child’s toys also.
  7. Use paper towels as much as you can. When using cloth towels, viruses can stick around for hours, just as they do on surfaces. Use paper towels to clean in the kitchen and for drying your hands after washing them.
  8. Throw your tissues away. Don’t leave used tissues lying around; as with surfaces and cloth towels, the virus can linger in the tissue for hours, potentially contaminating the space where it has been left.
  9. Maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. This helps keep your immune system strong. Try a diet with fruits and vegetables, exercise in some form on a regular basis, and get adequate rest each night.
  10. Limit your stress if possible. Stress releases cortisol, a hormone that has anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic stress, however, releases too much cortisol, which makes the immune system become resistant to it. Those who have chronic stress have a difficult time fighting the infection of the common cold due to inflammation and the anti-inflammatory response not acting as it should.