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Nov 28, 2014

Common Cold 101: What it Is & How You Can Avoid It


Common Cold 101: What it Is & How You Can Avoid It

Now that the days are short and the weather is cold, this means that cold season is once again upon us. But to help you and your family remain happy and healthy during the Holidays, we here at Advanced Family Medicine thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the more frequent questions we receive about the common cold.

What is the Common Cold?

Did you know that the common cold isn’t a single illness, but is actually a set of symptoms that can be caused by more than 200 types of viruses? It’s true, although the Rhinovirus is thought to result in between 10% and 40% of all annual cases of the common cold.

But whatever the cause, according to the CDC, as much as 20% of the population can fall ill to the common cold each year (in some instances, multiple times per year), which typically involves sneezing, a sore throat, nasal congestion, draining, and itchy / watery eyes. In more severe cases, the common cold can result in high fevers and muscle aches, which is responsible for more than 200,000 hospitalizations per year.

How Can You Protect Yourself Against the Common Cold?

Even if you catch a relatively mild case of the common cold, it’s still not a pleasurable experience, and you almost certainly want to do everything within your power to avoid it in the first place.

Because the common cold is caused by a virus, the easiest way to become infected is through transmission from an infected individual, often through coughing and sneezing. Other common ways are through touching a contaminated surface and then touching your hands to your face, at which point the virus makes its way into your nasal passages and multiplies rapidly.

With this said, the best method of avoiding the common cold is by getting vaccinated here at Advanced Family Medicine, although it’s still possible to catch a cold if you become infected with a different virus strain than the one contained in your vaccination. Also, you should avoid touching your hands to your eyes, mouth, and nose, and to wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially when in public places. For surfaces inside your home or other areas that you frequent (such as your desk at work), it’s recommended that you frequently disinfect using wipes or sprays widely available at most retailers.

Finally, you can boost your body’s ability to fight off colds by getting proper nutrition and adequate sleep.

What Can You Do if You Catch the Common Cold?

As long as your cold doesn’t result in secondary conditions such as sinus infections or pneumonia, it should clear up on its own in no more than 10 days. In the mean time, you should make sure to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid nicotine exposure.

If you’re experiencing pain or fever with your cold, you can use over the counter medications such as Tylenol, although it’s important to remember that they won’t shorten the length of your cold; only ease your symptoms. Also, keep in mind that antibiotics won’t work to fight your cold, since it’s cause by a virus, not by bacteria.

Keep in mind that it’s only during the first 3 days of your cold that you’re contagious, which means that you should limit your contact with others during this time.

Do You Have a Cold? Looking to Find Some Relief?

If so, be sure to schedule an appointment with your Advanced Family Medicine physician today by calling (425) 453-6838.

Tags: Cold, Prevention, Vaccination

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