Follow these three simple rules to reduce your risk of getting a cold

Cold viruses are everywhere and are easily spreadable. However, you can reduce your risk of getting a cold this winter by doing three simple things.

Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more. 

Lori Kinder
Lori Jagniecki, St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Prevention and Control Manager

Many different viruses can cause the common cold. According to the CDC, rhinoviruses are the most common cause. Rhinoviruses also can trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections.

“Viruses are all around us, and they change all the time,” says Lori Jagniecki, St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Prevention and Control Manager.

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

Most people recover from a cold within seven to 10 days. Adults with a weakened immune system, asthma or respiratory conditions are at risk of developing more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia.

Related Article: Recognizing symptoms can help parents distinguish between allergies and a common cold

How to protect yourself from a cold: Do these three things

Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air or close personal contact, such as when you shake hands with someone who has a cold or touch a doorknob that has viruses on it and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose.

You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold by:

  1. Washing your hands often with soap and water
    The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Parents and guardians should help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer substitute is acceptable, Jagniecki says. “Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands and regular hand washing can help protect you from getting sick,” Jagniecki says.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
    Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick. Jagniecki recommends keeping hand sanitizer readily available for use in between hand washing. “Carry hand sanitizer with you in the car and your purse,” Jagniecki suggests. “Use it before and after eating.”
  3. Stay away from sick people
    As mentioned, sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others. While this may not always be possible, if you can avoid close contact with someone who has a cold and practice frequent hand washing, you may reduce your risk of getting a cold.

Jagniecki also recommends maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep and not smoking. While the cold and flu are very different, Jagniecki also encourages everyone to get the flu vaccine.

Related article: There’s no excuse. Now is the time to get the flu vaccine.

If you do get sick, here’s how you can protect others

If you do get a cold, follow these tips to prevent spreading it to others:

  • Stay at home while you are sick
  • Avoid close contact, such as hugging, kissing or shaking hands, with others, especially the elderly and those also sick
  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or 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

Getting better

There is no cure for a cold. Nor is there a vaccine to protect you against the common cold. If you do get sick, the best remedy is lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms, but will not make your cold go away faster. Antibiotics also will not help, Jagniecki says. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, and they may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them unnecessarily.

“If you have a cold, you don’t necessarily need to go to the doctor,” Jagniecki says. “An antibiotic will not help you and may cause side effects, such as diarrhea or a yeast infection.”

You should see a doctor when you or a child has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees, symptoms last longer than 10 days or symptoms are severe or unusual. 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000