The common cold, is one of the most common infectious diseases in humans, it causes widespread illness and discomfort, resulting in nearly 26 million days of missed school and 23 million days of work absence every year in the . United States.

The average American experiences one to three colds per year, children even more.

Most colds are from rhinoviruses peaking in the spring and fall. Despite popular belief, cold temperatures do not appear to increase either the incidence or severity of the common cold. There is no evidence that exposure to cold or rainy weather makes you more likely to catch a cold. Breathing cold air however can thicken mucus making it harder to expel already inhaled viruses and bacteria. The common cold is most often transmitted by direct contact with the respiratory secretions of someone, who is infected, usually by hand-to-hand contact. The infected respiratory secretions are passed from one person’s hand to another. The second person then touches his or her eyes or rubs his or her nose, spreading the virus there, where it can cross the delicate membranes and cause infection. It is also possible to become infected by touching a surface, such as a tabletop or doorknob, that was recently touched by an infected person and then touching your eyes or nose. Viruses can survive on such surfaces for up to three hours.

Studies suggest a person is most likely to transmit rhinoviruses in the second to fourth day of infection, when the amount of virus in nasal secretions is highest.

Antibiotics do not kill viruses, and they should be used only for bacterial complications such as sinus or ear infections. “There is no prescription that will shorten a cold, or prevent it from running its course.” says Dr. Edwin Scott of CPC South. Overuse of antibiotics has become a very serious problem, leading to a resistance in disease-causing bacteria that may make antibiotics ineffective for certain conditions.

Here are some things Dr. Scott informs us than can reduce the risk of getting a cold:

  • Most importantly- wash your hands! Hand washing reduces the number of organisms available to enter the mouth and nose.
  • Because rhinoviruses can survive up to three hours outside the nasal passages on inanimate objects and skin, cleaning surfaces for example doorknobs and counter tops with a virus-killing disinfectant might help prevent spread of infection.
  • Drink large amounts of fluids — this can noticeably thin the mucus and make it easier for the body to remove inhaled viruses and bacteria.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes and nose.

There are things you can do; It’s important to drink adequate fluids, get plenty of rest and treat your symptoms to keep yourself as comfortable as possible. Gargling warm salt water can soothe a sore throat, inhaling steam may temporarily improve nasal congestion, and over-the-counter cold remedies, including decongestants and cough suppressants, will relieve congestion and cough. Antihistamines may improve the symptoms of runny nose and watery eyes, but they should be used with care since over-the-counter formulations cause drowsiness. Children and teenagers with symptoms of flu or chickenpox should not take aspirin or products containing aspirin or other salicylates. Use of these products in young flu and chickenpox sufferers has been associated with Reye syndrome, a rare condition that can be fatal. Because cold symptoms can be similar to those of the flu, it’s best not to give aspirin to people under 20 with these types of symptoms. Vitamin C, zinc and echinacea (a frequently used herbal therapy) have been widely rumored to decrease the duration of symptoms and the likelihood of developing the common cold, but no conclusive data has proven that this is the case.

How do I know when to make an appointment with my doctor?

Dr. Scott recommends if you develop high fevers, severe pain over your sinuses, severe wheezing or shortness of breath, you should see your physician to be sure that you don’t have a more serious illness, such as pneumonia, bacterial sinusitis or a middle ear infection.