Tis the season-the cold and cough season. We seek refuge from cold weather by retreating indoors where viruses abound. Air is recirculated and viruses flourish. What to do? The common cold, what do you know, T or F?
1. There are 10 viruses that cause the common cold. 2. There are 75 million office visits per year for colds. 3. After exposure about 75 percent will catch a cold.
The phrase “I caught a cold” suggests we “catch a cold” like we “catch a fish.” Rather, the 200 viruses that cause the common cold catch us by entering through the linings of our noses, mouths and eyes. Over 100 million clinic visits are made annually for colds. Kids get 3-8 colds per year, the No. 1 reason for missed days at school.
We catch colds by inhaling viruses and touching contaminated surfaces. Seven to 10 days later we are dealing with all of the familiar symptoms of a cold. The average person touches his face or eyes 12-60 times per hour. Washing hands and keeping them off of our faces decreases risk of infection markedly.
A sneeze or cough can contaminate an entire room. At local elementary schools viruses are routinely launched down two hallways to the gym assembly and into the cafeteria. No chance of spreading. Ever. Coughing into a sleeve and using tissue can decrease contamination but, well, they are kids. Teachers take cover.
Clothing or lack thereof does not increase risk of catching cold. If my kids are crazy enough to go outside without a coat (they are) I don't fight them. At some point (lack of feeling, chattering teeth) they find their way indoors.
Feed a cold and starve a fever? Neither. Drink to prevent dehydration and thin mucus. If you are hungry, eat. If not, don't.
Medicine to fight symptoms include antitussives (cough), decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics, and antipyretics (fever). The FDA recommends that no infants or children under the age of 4 be given over-the-counter medications because of risk for serious and life-threatening side effects. Even older children can develop irritability, sleep disturbance, fatigue and difficulty focusing and concentrating with OTC medications.
It’s best to consult your child's physician before heading to the pharmacy or your medicine cabinet, regardless of your child's age. Cold mist humidifier and saline nasal spray may thin mucus and may offer comfort.
Antibiotics should never be taken for a cold because they fight bacteria not viruses. Further there is no evidence that they prevent bacterial infection or pneumonia. Improper prescribing of antibiotics is a big problem in the U.S. Physicians should shoulder most of the blame, but informed patients can avoid extra expense and the risk for adverse drug reactions by not requesting antibiotics.
Alternative remedies include Airborne. Zinc and echinacea are not proven to prevent colds but still we spend over $100 million on them annually. Vitamin C may prevent colds and decrease duration of symptoms but more studies are needed for specific recommendations.
If 10 people are exposed to a person with a cold, how many of them will actually catch a cold? About three. Why don't they all? We do not know.
Daily exercise (30 minutes of walking is great) and sleep (more than 7 hours nightly) are proven to play a role in preventing colds.
There is no cure for the common cold, though. The person who develops a cure will have more money than Bill Gates. Until then, remember what your mom said. Walk daily. Get to bed early. She was smarter than you thought.
Answers: 1. F; 2. F (it’s 100 million); 3. F.
Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.