Everyone is talking about Ebola these days, and although the deadly virus may very well pose a massive health threat to our nation, perhaps the bigger threat is the common cold and flu. Flu season is upon us so how can you keep from catching what your co-worker has?
First of all, know that just because the weather gets cold does not mean you will catch a cold. Contrary to what even my mom still tells us, the temperature outside has nothing to do with the risk of getting a cold or the flu. Not even running outside with wet hair during a snow storm will increase your chances of getting sick. It’s true that people tend to get colds more so during the winter, but that’s mainly because we are indoors more so during the colder months of the year. Being close and closed in with others increases the spread of germs, which increases the chances of getting sick. It’s that simple.
Schools are often ground zero for those cold and flu causing germs. You can take some very simple steps, however, to decrease the odds of your kids getting sick. Make it a habit to have your kids change clothes immediately upon returning home after a school day, which could prevent them from spreading any germs they picked up at school in your home. It also goes without saying that they should also wash their hands as they come home.
Washing hands, in fact, is what many experts say is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. The cold virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours so wash them often and after touching things like public pens or pencils, keyboards, and other places that harbor viruses. Be sure to wash in between your fingers and wash those fingertips as they are often the first point of germ contact. Teach your kids to always “catch” their sneezes and coughs in their elbows, not their hands, and for Pete’s sake tell them to leave their noses alone! No picking and no scratching, puh-leeze! Do you have a thumb-sucker? Now’s the perfect time to break that germ-spreading habit! And, if someone is sick, stand at least three feet away from them if possible, which is how far a sneeze can travel. Eeewww!
Most importantly, if your child is even a little bit sick, keep him or her home! And, the same goes for you: don’t go to work or to any enclosed public spaces if you are sick.
Starve a cold, feed a fever? Who knows for sure, but ther are some things you can eat or drink that may help prevent a cold or the duration of one. I remember growing up we would always eat green chile when we were sick and, to this day, I believe it works. Now I know why. Hot peppers of many types are packed with capsaicin, a natural and effective decongestant, so anything from serranos to jalapenos will help clear your sinuses. Garlic, oatmeal, and black tea are natural immune boosters and may also prove beneficial. My mom taught me ears ago to chop a couple of garlic gloves into pill-size pieces, squeeze lemon juice over them, and then swallow them like pills. The garlic will literally “sweat” the cold out of you. It works but you probably don’t want to be near a lot of people during the process!
Lastly, drink plenty of liquids. It’s not uncommon for someone with a cold to get dehydrated so drink away and eat foods that contain salt (chicken soup!) because they help replace minerals your body loses due to dehydration.
What you shouldn’t do is rely on an antibiotic. Colds are viruses, not bacterial infections, so antibiotics are of no help. It’s best just to let a cold run its course by eating and drinking right and getting plenty of rest. If you do get a fever or start to feel worse after three or four days however, it’s time to call the doctor. Colds can lead to sinus infections, pneumonia, and even bronchitis so it’s best to get them checked if symptoms don’t improve or worsen.
Many people rely on vitamin C, zinc, and other supplements to prevent or expedite the length of a cold. Some studies have shown that zinc may indeed decrease how long a cold lasts by one day but it’s recommended you take zinc in a lozenge form and not a nasal spray. Vitamin C can also be beneficial but surprisingly exercise may affect its effectiveness. One study revealed that regularly taking more than 200 mg of vitamin C per day and then exercising cuts the duration of a cold. What? The last thing I feel like doing when I have a cold is exercising, but maybe I need to rethink my laziness! Still, doctors agree that if your symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, sore throat, headache) it’s okay to exercise but if you’ve got symptoms below the neck like chest congestion or bodily aches and pains, exercise is probably not a good idea.
I still haven’t gotten my flu shot and I know I need to. I get one every year and I’ve never gotten the flu. Knock on wood and get in line Carla!
If you have any unique or unusual tips on how to prevent a cold or cut one’s duration, please share! God bless you!