It’s the time of year when short sleeves are replaced by down jackets, which means we’re quickly entering the “cold and flu season.” While we tend to use cold and flu interchangeably, and they’re both respiratory illnesses that tend to surface at similar times, they’re actually separate illnesses caused by different viruses.
Because flu and the common cold have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. Cold symptoms are usually milder than those of the flu, and colds generally don’t result in serious health problems like the flu can.
A sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more. Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it’s possible to get a cold any time of the year.
Most people recover from a cold in about a week. Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids can help cold sufferers feel better. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make a cold go away any faster. Always read the label and use medications as directed. Talk to your doctor before giving non-prescription cold medicines to children, since some medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. Antibiotics will not help you recover from a cold caused by a respiratory virus. They do not work against viruses, and they may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them unnecessarily.
Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touches a surface, like a doorknob, that has respiratory viruses on it, and then touches your eyes, mouth or nose.
There are several ways you can reduce your risk of getting a cold:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for at least 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
- Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.
If you have a cold, you should follow these tips to help prevent spreading it to other people:
- Stay home while you are sick.
- Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing or shaking hands.
- Move away from people before coughing or sneezing.
- A cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away, or a cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.
- Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs.
This article was brought to you by :
Doctor Julianne Sarcone, ARNP
Mercy Clinics Family Medicine Waukee.
25 W. Hickman Rd.