With the cold season upon us, it is expected that sometime this winter many of us will have the misfortune of experiencing a cold; maybe that’s why we call it the common cold. There is however, an effective way to help prevent catching a cold, and that is hand washing. Even if those around you have cold symptoms (runny nose, sniffling, sneezing, coughing and wheezing) you will not necessarily catch it if you frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water.
Although many people consider colds to be a minor illness, colds are a major cause of absence from school and work, and are the leading cause of visits to physicians and can be serious for the elderly. Children and parents seem to be the most susceptible. Children can contract between three and eight colds a year
A cold is spread when we come in direct contact with a cold sufferer by shaking hands, breathing the tiny droplets of moisture from a cough or sneeze that contains cold germs, or touching anything a cold sufferer has recently touched or sneezed on. Then we inadvertently rub our hands across our face (specifically around the nose or eyes) and introduce the cold germ to our system. Two to five days later the cold symptoms manifest themselves. In these instances the basic act of washing hands might have actually prevented that cold. All available evidence indicates that cold weather, chilled wet feet, and drafts do not cause or increase susceptibility to colds.
Once the cold is contracted it seems we all go through the routine of groping for the quickest so called cure through increased doses of vitamins, nasal sprays, chicken soup, zinc, fluids and granny’s secret recipe. Some remedies might help relieve a few of the symptoms and slightly shorten the duration of the cold.
All things considered, vigilance towards cold prevention is simple and worthwhile. Wash your hands after you think you might have come in contact with cold germs. If you are sick, avoid spreading the illness. Keep your distance from others.
It is also important to encourage frequent hand washing of friends, family, and those you have frequent contact with. For children especially, it is vital to teach hand washing at a young age and to make it a part of their daily routine, particularly before eating, after using the bathroom, after a cough or sneeze, and following the handling of soiled used handkerchiefs.
To enhance the effectiveness of hand washing to be sure to use warm water and plenty of soap, rubbing hands in a circular motion followed by a thorough rinse. Dry with a sanitary single use paper towel or “personal” towel. Never share towels with friends or family.
When everyone around you is sick, simple hand washing will help ensure a healthier winter season for you and your friends.
Doug Hartline, R.S.
Redding Health Department