HOW TO PREVENT A COLD
Going out in cold weather without a coat will not cause a cold. Wearing wet clothing will not cause a cold. A cold virus causes a cold. And one of the best ways to prevent a cold is to reduce the chances that someone will pass the virus on to you. “Colds are caused by viruses passed by person-to-person contact, not by getting a chill or wearing wet socks,” says Jack Gwaltney Jr., M.D., head of the Department of Epidemiology and Virology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. “Someone with a cold rubs his or her nose then touches your hand. As soon as you touch your nose or wipe your eyes, you’re infected.”
Because cold viruses enter the body through the nose, mouth, and eyes, you can protect yourself most effectively by keeping your hands away from those areas. These preventive measures also help:
• Wash your hands often, especially after playing with children, shaking hands with someone who has a cold, or touching things used by a person with a cold.
• Teach children to use disposable tissues and throw them away.
• Move away from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
• Keep your face clean. Keep long hair out of your eyes.
• Wash your eyeglasses often with water or cleaning solution. Avoid sharing eyeglasses, sunglasses, or goggles. Always wash your hands before touching contact lenses.
Soothe the symptoms
“Not everyone infected with a cold virus gets sick,” Dr. Gwaltney says. “You may help your immune system fight a virus by getting enough rest and exercise and by keeping stress at a manageable level.” If you do develop a cold, Dr. Gwaltney recommends the following self-care treatments for your symptoms:
• For nasal congestion, nose drops are more effective than oral decongestants and have fewer side effects. But use the drops for only two to three days. The drops have a rebound effect after that, making congestion worse.
• For coughs, use a medicine with a cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan.
• To soothe a sore throat, mix a teaspoon of salt with warm water and gargle, or use throat lozenges with topical anesthetics.
• To relieve muscle aches and fever, take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
• Apply petroleum jelly or lip-chap ointment to a raw, red nose.
When to call a doctor
Most colds get better in five to seven days without medical attention. Call a doctor if:
• Symptoms seem especially severe or different from those you usually experience with a cold.
• A fever of 101 degrees or higher lasts more than three days.
• You have trouble breathing or swallowing.
• You’re suffering severe ear pain.
• Mucus or sputum is thick, green or rusty or odorous.