Tips to Prevent a Cold

People typically associate the common cold with winter and spring, when cases are most common. You can get sick with a cold at any time during the year, however. Children and adults get over one billion colds in the U.S. each year, and while most people recover from a cold after a few days, nobody likes being stuck in bed, sniffling and sneezing.

In fact, many adults come down with a cold 2 to 3 times per year, leading to millions of cases yearly in the U.S. alone. While most people recover within 7to 10 days, many are stuck in bed, sniffling, sneezing, and missing work or school during that time. You can’t prevent a cold, but there are things that you can do to help reduce your risk of getting a cold. Here are a few tips to help you and your family stay healthy.

How do you get a cold?

Understanding how people catch a cold is key in helping prevent a cold. The common cold is caused by viruses that are spread through air, through contact with people infected with the virus, or through infected surfaces.

Someone who is sick with a cold can spread the virus through physical contact or by touching a surface – such as a counter, doorknob, keyboard, phone, etc. Cold viruses spread through the air when someone who is sick with a cold, coughs, sneezes, or blows his or her nose.

The virus typically enters through the eyes, nose, or mouth. If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face, there’s a good chance that you will come down with a cold.

People are usually contagious within the first 3 days of getting a cold. Colds generally aren’t contagious after a week.

Cold Symptoms

The common cold is a collection of symptoms such as:

  • a sore throat
  • congestion
  • drainage
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • headaches
  • body aches

Remarkably, over 200 viruses can cause cold symptoms and they are spread easily through the air such as a sneeze or cough, through contact with others such as a handshake, or through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as countertops, door knobs, keyboards, phones, etc.  While most people are contagious within the first few days of illness, at times it can extend for up to 2 weeks.  Because it is so contagious, it can quickly spread through a family or workplace before you know it.  Luckily, a few very simple practices will greatly help prevent infection and spread.

How to avoid spreading a cold

There are a few simple things that you can do to help prevent the spread of the common cold.

Washing your hands well, and washing your hands often, is a great way to help prevent spreading colds. Handwashing helps remove cold viruses that can live on your hands. When you remove these viruses you avoid contaminating surfaces or passing the virus on to others.

Avoid close contact with those who are sick. If you’re sick, avoid contact with others.

Move away from others and turn away when coughing and sneezing.

Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. You can’t completely block those contagious air droplets, but covering your entire nose and mouth with a tissue or your arm really helps.

If you’re contagious, stay home. You don’t want to get others sick.

Clean contaminated toys and surfaces with a disinfectant.

Sometimes despite your best effort, you still get a cold.  What should you do if it becomes severe or doesn’t let up?  Unfortunately, it is difficult at times to distinguish between cold symptoms and something more such as the flu or pneumonia, so a doctor visit may be in order.

When to see the doctor for a cold

Visit your doctor for an exam and possible testing if you experience any of these:

  • High or persistent fever
  • Worsening cough
  • Symptoms present more than 7-10 days
  • Dehydration or feeling weak

There is not a vaccine for the common cold, but there is for the flu. Talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccine.

If you need a doctor right away or after hours, consider visiting MediServe Walk-In Clinic, with two locations in Fayetteville.