How to Prepare for the “Cold”

Cold weather ushers in some of my favorite things, holidays, family parties, homemade goodies, sledding, hot chocolate, and much more. Unfortunately, it also brings with it snow shoveling and the common cold. I wish we could share our snow shoveling duties as well as we share the common cold. In the United States the common cold accounts annually for 26 million absences from school and 23 million lost days of work.

Types of Cold Viruses

There are over 200 subtypes of viruses that cause cold symptoms, most of which can cause reinfection after reexposure. Transmission of the virus most commonly is from hand contact with an infected person or an infected environmental surface like a doorknob, shopping cart, keyboard, or table. Droplet transmission from sneezing or coughing is also a major source of transmission.

How to Avoid Catching a Cold

In an effort to reduce the spread of illness adequate hand washing and disposal of nasal secretions is the most effective means. It is important to note that the greatest amount of virus is shed at day three; therefore this is when one is most contagious. This coincides with the same time that one has the most severe of symptoms as well. However, the greatest risk for transmission actually occurs between day one and two because symptoms are usually not yet detected and we are not very cautious about how we may be contaminating others.

How To Improve Your Cold Symptoms

As we are working to not infect others; what can be done to improve the symptoms? For adults, over a counter cough and cold medications may be tried. Remember to follow the label’s instructions. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days or start to slightly improve and then get much worse it may be time to schedule a visit with your physician. There are other times that you may want to consult a physician as well. These are a few:

If you have asthma that is getting hard to control with your regular medications

A fever of 100.4 or higher that comes with chills, loss of appetite, body aches, or trouble breathing

A cough that lasts longer than 10 days

A fever with pre-existing lung disease

Sinus pain, or dental pain

For children, less than 6 years old, cough and cold medications are not recommended and are not proven to be of any benefit. In fact, some can cause the child to be too sleepy and have more difficulty breathing. In these young children nasal saline, bulb suctioning the nose, a humidifier, and Tylenol alternating with ibuprofen following the package instructions can be tried. It is important to keep the child well hydrated.

If a child becomes confused, stops responding to you, if they have trouble breathing, or have to work hard to breathe, they should be taken to the emergency room. You should consider seeing a physician if the following occur:

  • the child refuses to drink for a long time,
  • has a fever over 100.4 and is not acting like him or herself,
  • has a cough for more than 2 weeks
  • has considerable yellow goop coming out of the eye
  • Has ear pain or is pulling at his or her ears

Wash your hands often whether or not you are sick and if you are concerned call your Physician.


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