By JASON CARSON
Winter is approaching and weather forecasters are buzzing about El Nino and heavy precipitation.
With all this talk, many people may be worried about catching a cold.
Not to worry. According Dr. Kennen Tubbs of Utah Valley Family Practice in Provo, very few people die of complications from colds.
That, however, is no comfort to those suffering from the miserable effects of these nasty little viruses.
A little knowledge and a few simple suggestions may be of use to those looking to reduce their (or their children’s) chances of catching a cold.
How is a cold transmitted?
Tubbs said colds are most often transmitted in one of four ways: hand-to-hand contact, such as a handshake; hand-to-mouth contact, such as using dishes previously handled by someone with a cold; mouth-to-mouth, like kissing; or breathing contaminated air.
Kids are one of the main sources of cold transmission, due to their lack of proper hygiene and their close interaction with other children, Tubbs said.
“You can tell your child to wash his hands 100 times, but he’s not going to do it. It’s hard to get your kids to act like adults when they’re only five,” he said.
Richard Salazar, assistant professor of health science, said colds are not as contagious as people may think.
To avoid a cold …
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the best way to avoid catching a cold is to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, and avoid rubbing your eyes and nose.
Besides these measures, Tubbs said, “There is little you can really do. You cannot avoid the common cold.
A popular myth…
Tubbs said exposure to cold temperatures does not increase a person’s chance of catching a cold.
“Catching a cold has nothing to do with your body temperature,” he said.
Although studies have shown that more colds are contracted in colder climates, Tubbs said this an indirect relationship.
He said that people in warmer climates tend to spend more time outdoors, limiting their contact to people who are infected with a cold virus. People in colder climates often gather in close proximities to stay warm, Tubbs said. This increases their chances of catching colds.
To feel better…
“Get your rest and take in plenty of fluids,” Salazar said.
This will replace the body’s lost fluids and allow it to fight the virus more effectively, he said.
Some vitamins and supplements may shorten the life of the virus, Salazar said.
Large amounts of Vitamin C may have a mild antihistamine effect, he said. However, he also said some of that effect may be psychological.
Zinc lozenges, if taken early, may shorten the life of the cold, Salazar said.
According to the AAFP, gargling with warm salt water a few times a day may relieve the sore throat that often accompanies other symptoms.
To avoid spreading the cold…
One way to keep the cold from spreading is by covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, according to the AAFP.
Uncovered coughs and sneezes can send droplets through the air that may be inhaled by others, Tubbs said.
In addition, people with colds should wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water, he said. This will prevent the virus from being placed onto surfaces that others may touch.