10 Tips to Prevent The Common Cold
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
The common cold is arguably the most common illness in humans. According to
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is also one of the
most common causes of work and school absenteeism, with up
to 22 million school days lost each year in the U.S. Colds are caused by viral
infections. Over 200 different viruses can cause cold symptoms of varying severity.
Viruses that cause colds are spread from person to
person through tiny droplets of mucus that enter the
air from the nasal passages of infected persons and are inhaled by others. Colds
can also be spread by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by contact
with infected persons and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
While it is impossible to completely prevent the spread
of colds, there are steps you can take to reduce your and your family's chances
of becoming infected with a virus that causes
- Wash your hands often.
This is probably the single best measure to prevent transmission of colds.
Especially after shopping, going to the gym, or spending time in public
places, hand washing is critical. Frequent hand washing can destroy viruses
that you have acquired from touching surfaces used by other people. You can
also carry a small tube of hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand
wipes when visiting public places. Teach your children the importance of hand
- Avoid touching your face,
especially the nose, mouth, and eye
areas, if you are around someone with a cold or have been touching surfaces in a
- Don't smoke. Cigarette
smoke can irritate the airways and
increase susceptibility to colds and other infections. Even exposure to passive
smoke can make you (or your children) more vulnerable to colds.
- Use disposable items if someone
in your family is infected. Disposable cups can be thrown away
after each use and prevent accidental spread of the virus from sharing of cups
or glasses. This is particularly important if you have young children who may
try to drink from others' cups.
- Keep household surfaces clean. Door knobs, drawer pulls, keyboards, light switches, telephones,
remote controls, countertops, and sinks can all harbor viruses for hours after
their use by an infected person. Wipe these surfaces frequently with soap and
water or a
- If your child has a cold, wash his or her toys as well when you are cleaning household surfaces and commonly-used items.
- Use paper
towels in the kitchen and bathroom for hand washing. Germs can live for several
hours on cloth towels. Alternatively, have separate towels for each family
member and provide a clean one for guests.
- Throw tissues away after use. Used
tissues are sources of virus that can contaminate any surface where they are
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. While there isn't direct evidence to show that eating well or exercising
can prevent colds, maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, with adequate sleep,
good nutrition and
physical exercise can help
ensure that your immune system is in
good condition and ready to fight infection
if it occurs.
Last Editorial Review: 10/7/2008
- Control stress. Studies
have shown that people experiencing emotional stress have weakened immune
systems and are more likely to catch a
cold than their calmer counterparts.