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9 Things to Know About the Common Cold

Learn how to tell if you have a cold, and the differences between the flu and a cold, as well as tips to help prevent cold symptoms from forming.


9 Things to Know About the Common Cold

While it is typically associated with winter, the common cold can strike at any time of year. Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid it and some tips for what you can do if you catch it.

What is the most common way to catch a cold?
The most common reason people catch a cold is by coming into contact with the cold virus. The common cold is transmitted through tiny little air droplets as well as touching coughy/sneezy people and objects with the virus. But don't worry, you don't have to hibernate for seasons at a time to avoid getting sick. Remember your hand sanitizer, and use it after touching doors, elevator buttons, shared computer keyboards and phones. To help prevent colds, wash hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Will going out in the cold make my cold worse?
No, snow angels have nothing to do with colds. While cold temperatures don't necessarily worsen cold symptoms, more colds happen during the cold season (early fall to late winter). There are several reasons: Schools are in session, increasing the risk of coming in contact with a cold virus; people stay indoors more and are in closer contact with each other; and low humidity causes dry nasal passages, which are more susceptible to cold viruses. Rinsing the nasal passages with a saltwater solution can help prevent colds.

Do visiting public places (gyms, restaurants and etc.) increase my chances of catching a cold?
Yes. Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touch a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touch your eyes, mouth or nose. To increase your chances of staying healthy during cold season, wash your hands and try not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose. But don't let all this stop you from going out and having fun during cold season.

What can I do for clogged ears from a cold?
Having an infection, such as a cold, sore throat or sinus infection, can cause your ears to feel clogged, crammed and downright miserable. But there's something you can do. Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide relief for children and adults with an earache. Another way to help relieve pain include applying a cold pack or cold wet washcloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes. Chewing can also provide comfort, so grab some chewing gum or a snack and get to it. 

Does drinking milk cause more nose mucus when you have a cold?
No, milk doesn't cause mucus, it just makes your phlegm (sticky mucus) thicker, sometimes irritating your throat. Instead of milk, drink water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey to help loosen congestion.

Can going from air conditioning to summer heat increase your risk of catching a cold?
Somebody call the myth police, because this isn't true. You can't catch a cold from changes in temperature. You catch a cold from coming in contact with a cold virus. To help prevent colds, wash your hands with soap and water often, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and avoid people who are sick.

Why do children get more colds than adults?
Two reasons, really. First, their immune systems are less developed than those of adults. Second, they are often in close physical contact with one another at school and daycare, maximizing the likelihood of intermingling their cold virus cooties. While there is no cure for the common cold, symptoms are temporary. Often times, rest and over-the-counter medicines -- always used as directed -- can help children feel better. Call your child's pediatrician if symptoms last more than 10 days.

Is it okay to exercise if I have a cold?
Yes, if you don't have a fever, go for it. When your symptoms are all "above the neck" (such as a runny nose, cough, nasal congestion or a sore throat), you won't have to worry about missing your Pilates class.  Often times, rest and over-the-counter medicines -- always used as directed -- can get you feeling your best in no time. Call your doctor if symptoms last more than 10 days.  

Is there really a wrong way to blow your nose when you have a cold?
If you look for it hard enough there's a wrong way to do everything. But right or wrong, the most important thing to remember is to wash your hands with soap and water after blowing your nose (or coughing or sneezing), since germs from your mucus can remain on your hands and infect surfaces and other people. To wash your hands properly, rub soap onto wet hands for 20 seconds. Make sure to get under your fingernails. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and turn the faucet off with the paper towel.

©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017

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