Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., professor of medicine and chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and chair of infectious disease at VCU Medical Center, offers simple precautions to avoid the common cold and ways to be purposefully reactive if you already have the sniffles.
“To avoid a common cold, not smoking, washing your hands, getting enough rest and maintaining good hydration are important.”
What makes the general public more susceptible to colds during winter months?
Evidence suggests low temperatures and low humidity allow for better virus survivability and transmission.
What are the common cold symptoms?
Headache, coughing, sore throat and earaches, particularly in children, are common cold symptoms.
What things can people do to avoid the common cold?
To avoid a common cold, not smoking, washing your hands, getting enough rest and maintaining good hydration are important. To the fullest extent possible, avoid sick contacts.
When does a cold progress into the flu or are they two different issues?
Colds are caused by viruses other than influenza. Colds don’t progress into influenza. They are unrelated and caused by different viruses (coronavirus, rhinovirus, etc). Influenza typically manifest with headache, fever, sore throat and muscle pain.
When is it necessary to visit a physician, as opposed to taking over-the-counter medications?
If a cold lasts longer than three to five days, visit a physician. Also visit a physician early on if you experience severe signs like shortness of breath, high fever and muscle/joint pains. These may be symptoms of influenza and this may be treated with anti-viral medications.
Are there particular work environments or places in which people should be mindful of germs that cause colds?
Health care environments and crowded workplaces, like airports or restaurants, are not good for people with colds. People in crowded environments, such as shelters and even day care centers, are at a potential risk for upper respiratory infections owing to frequent contact, poor hygiene (not washing hands, touching mouth, eyes with unclean hands) and close proximity. As a result, in these environments, aerosols and droplets from sneezing may be infectious.
Are there particular populations who are more susceptible to a cold?
Smokers and those with chronic conditions, heart, lung, diabetes mellitus, bone marrow transplant recipients as well as HIV/AIDS patients are more prone to colds during this season.
What should a person do for treatment at the onset of a cold?
Don’t report to work if you are sick, and practice proper respiratory etiquette, like covering your nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. The common cold is not treated by antibiotics. Use Tylenol or Motrin, if needed along with over-the-counter decongestants. Remain well hydrated. Also, wash your hands after blowing your nose and avoid sharing utensils. Try to avoid health care settings, because patients are more susceptible to catching your cold, which can cause them to become sicker.