Cold and Flu Prevention
We are still in the cold and flu season and it seems that many people around us have been suffering from cold symptoms. Several individuals I know seem to hardly be able to get over one cold before they catch the next, it appears.
The common cold, which is also known as an upper respiratory infection, is caused by at least one of 200 viruses. Those viruses attack and multiply within the cells that line the nose and the throat. First, those viruses trick cells in the body to ingest them. Then they take over the cells’ reproductive machinery and produce new viruses. When infected cells die, they release new virus particles, which then move on and infect other cells.
Most of the unpleasant cold symptoms are caused by the body’s own immune reaction. When the body recognizes the viruses as an invader, immune cells release antibodies, which help mobilize the body’s defense system but may also cause fever, aches, and fatigue.
Typically, colds viruses spread through touch. An affected person may or may not have apparent cold symptoms. This is why you can catch the cold when shaking hands with an affected person, touch the phone, your computer key board, mouse, or a door knob if you touch it after that person did. If you then touched your eyes or nose, or ate without washing your hands, depending how strong your immune system is you may (re-) infect yourself with the virus.
Viruses can further be transmitted in the small airborne particles produced by a cough or a sneeze, however this requires closer contact. In many families it is not uncommon that young children sleep in the bed of their parents, which makes it a lot easier for viruses to spread. Also, in families it is not unusual to share utensils, glasses and cups, which obviously encourages viruses to move around.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), after you contract a cold, you are contagious one or two days before you notice any symptoms, but you are mostly contagious up to four or five days after you have symptoms when there is plenty of the virus present in nasal secretions. So, by all means, if you have a cold, do everybody a favor and wash your hands each time after you cleaned your nose.
Most adults come down with two to five colds a year. However, just because this is what "seems normal" does not mean it has to be that way. There are plenty of ways how to bullet-proof your body to avoid colds and other infections or at least minimize the impact and the duration of it. (Read about immunity)
If you do catch a cold, general advice is to stay away from polluted areas, get plenty of rest, avoid medication if possible, drink lots of fluids, and eat and drink immunity enhancing foods liquids and supplementation.
The primary method to prevent infection is hand-washing to minimize person-to-person transmission of the virus. There are no antiviral drugs approved to treat or cure the infection. Most available medications are palliative and treat symptoms only. Megadoses of vitamin C, preparations from echinacea, and zinc gluconate have been studied as treatments for the common cold, but none have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency due to lack of effectiveness.
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