Why Worry, It’s Just the Common Cold. How to Prevent Them.
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Why Worry, It’s Just the Common Cold. How to Prevent Them.

Every year millions of Americans suffer from the common cold and the Flu. For most of us, viral respiratory illnesses are self-limiting and usually leave us after a few days time. Are the common cold and/or the flu anything to be concerned about then? According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) they really should be taken seriously, especially by people 65 years of age and older. Every year 114,000 Americans are hospitalized by complications arising from the common cold or the flu. Every year, 36,000 Americans die from those complications. The common cold and the flu should be taken very seriously by everyone but especially by the elderly and by those suffering from other medical conditions that increase their risks to contracting colds and the flu.

The common cold and the flu should be taken seriously by everyone, but worrying about them isn’t enough, you need to take steps to reduce your chances of getting them in the first place.

Preventative medicine

Every year, there are over 1 billion colds in the United States according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Unlike for the flu, there are no common cold vaccines to protect us. More than 200 known viruses cause the common cold. The Rhinoviruses are the cause of 30 to 35 percent of the colds in adults and are most likely to cause them during the spring, summer and early fall. There are over 110 strains of the Rhinoviruses and those nasty little critters really thrive at 91°F, the temperature found inside the human nose.

During the winter and early spring months, the common cold is caused mostly by the Coronaviruses and there are over 30 different strains of Coronaviruses for doctors to contend with. These viruses are the cause of every 3 out of 4 adult colds during those months. The Coronaviruses are hard to study because they are extremely difficult to grow in the laboratory.

Other adult colds, about 10 to 15 percent of all adult colds, are caused by viruses that are also responsible for more serious illnesses, viruses such as the adenoviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, orthomyxoviruses (including influenza A and B viruses, which cause flu), paramyxoviruses (including several parainfluenza viruses), respiratory syncytial virus, and enteroviruses.

Thirty to fifty percent of colds in adults that are presumed to be viral in nature still go unidentified. With new viruses and virus strains being discovered every day, it’s highly unlikely that an effective vaccine that would offer us even a modicum of protection against them will be developed anytime soon. So what can we do to protect ourselves against the common cold?

Preventative measures

· Hand washing with a disinfectant soap and plenty of hot water is one of the best ways to keep from catching the common cold and one of the best ways to keep from giving your cold to others. A national survey conducted by the American Society for Microbiology reported that most people wash their hands after changing a diaper and before handling food, but few reported washing their hands after coughing or sneezing in/on them.

· The Rhinoviruses and all its pesky cousins are air born viruses but can be picked up from doorknobs and other objects that infected people touch. These viruses can enter the body through the nose and eyes as well as the mouth so it’s important to keep from touching or rubbing those areas of the body during the cold/flu seasons.

· The Rhinoviruses and their troublesome relatives are hearty little critters and can remain viable for up to 3 hours on doorknobs, telephones, stair railings, etc., so wipe them down several times a day with disinfectant wipes. Always wipe the down after they have been touched by someone with a cold or the flu.

· Stop using cigarettes and other tobacco products. People who smoke or people who are exposed to second hand smoke are more prone to catching colds and suffer complication arising from those infection than are nonsmokers. Smoke interferes with the body’s mechanism for keeping disease causing organisms and debris out of the lungs.

· Eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting plenty of rest and exercise strengthens the immune system and helps the body ward off infection.

The common cold will usually run its course in 7 to 10 days. The best way to treat the common cold is to stay home (if at all possible), drink plenty of fluids, stay warm, and get plenty of rest. If you aren’t getting any better after a week to ten days, it’s time to see the doctor. Doctor Jerry Rogers, a family physician in Moorehead, Michigan said, “We don’t typically treat colds and the flu unless they become complicated.” Doctors treat complications like bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infections, etc., all viral infections that need to be treated with antibiotics. Also, if after feeling better for a short period of time your cold comes back accompanied by chest pain, high fever, or the mucus you are producing turns from clear to thick yellow-green mucus, it’s time to see a doctor. If you develop a severe cough that keeps you from sleeping or that leaves you short of breathe, it’s time to see a doctor. People with asthma and/or known heart conditions should be especially alert to signs indicating the need for a doctor’s attention.

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Comments (1)

This is a great article! One thing that I disagree with is using disinfectant soaps. The problem with disinfectants and antibacterials is that they create strains of "super bugs". These products wipe out weaker bacteria and leave the strong behind to thrive and multiply. They speed up the evolution bacteria, creating stronger and more dangerous strains. Those who are young should live a healthy and active lifestyle so that their immune system is working at its best. This will lessen the blow of colds. In the case of colds being life threatening, whether it be due to illness or age, using disinfectants and antibacterials makes sense. All those who are healthy should be able to take colds in stride for the benefit of everyones health in the future. There are already strains of bacteria that cannot be destroyed by current medicine.

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