Dec. 16--When it's sub-freezing outside, moms and dads frequently tell their
children to button up their coats and to pull on their hats and gloves so they
don't catch cold.
Sometimes, though, the youngsters gleefully remind them of what they learned in
school: "Mom, Dad, colds are caused by viruses, not the cold air."
The truth is, they're both right.
Colds really are caused by viruses, so children who dispute their parents'
warnings are correct. But exposure to the low temperatures can weaken the immune
system, which means that the parents are right as well.
"Most parents don't know to say or explain to their children that just being out
in the cold won't make you [catch] cold. But if your nose starts to run, that
opens you up and slows your immune system down and allows the virus to get into
your body and gives you the cold," said Dr. Tanya Baldwin of Mercy Family
Physicians in Oregon.
"It's exposure to the cold that can put a chink into your armor, which is your
So parents should keep telling their children to bundle up as one way to ward
off colds and flu. Dr. Baldwin suggested other ways to reduce the risk of
getting sick such as drinking plenty of water, getting a lot of rest, and
"I think it's all inclusive in order to have the body function at its optimum,
you need to have some kind of physical activity," she said, adding that "plenty
of fluid allows the nutrients to get in the body and move around."
And don't cheat yourself out of rest, which is paramount to fighting these
viruses. "Shoot for eight hours of rest, even if you're not asleep the whole
eight hours. The body recovers with eight hours of rest," she added.
She also is a proponent of taking vitamins..
"I am a strong believer in supplements. When you supplement and get all the
nutrients and get all the minerals and take multivitamins, your body has the
ability to fight off what comes at it."
Many people who comes down with a cold or flu thinks antibiotics will make them
better. But those are caused by viruses, and antibiotics work against bacteria,
Dr. Baldwin reiterated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends getting prescription antiviral drugs, and it's especially important
that the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with chronic
illnesses see their doctors immediately, the CDC states.
While the CDC says that the first line of defense to minimizing the chance of
getting the flu is to get a flu shot, sometimes people who follow that directive
still get the flu. Dr. Baldwin has an explanation for that: The vaccine helps
lessen the severity of the impact of the flu or respiratory diseases.
"Everyone is under the wrong impression that if you get a flu vaccine you won't
get sick at all, and that is not correct," she said. "Getting the flu is not the
problem. We can't prevent people from getting the flu, but we're trying to
prevent severe complications of getting pneumonia or death from complications of
And while hand washing is critical to reducing the spread of the virus, Dr.
Baldwin said the constant use of antibacterial soaps can have a negative effect.
"The thing that people aren't remembering is that they need to allow their
immune systems to develop. We get into a panic and use antibacteria in
everything, and it doesn't allow your natural immunity to develop. You don't
want to have it significantly impact your daily activities, so wash your hands
after normal activities," she said.
In homes where there are young children, it's practically a given that they'll
take viruses home from day care and school that wind up making the whole family
sick. But Dr. Baldwin said it's vital that parents look for day care centers
that are accredited and whose caregivers follow sanitization guidelines for
themselves and children.
As for sick adults, the CDC recommends they stay home for their own benefit as
well as for their colleagues. And if you simply must go to the office, Dr.
Baldwin said to consider wearing a mask, if employers allow them.
"If you're feeling under the weather and coughing, wearing a mask while at work
could help. It's not possible in all situations, but it's a thought," she said.
Contact Rose Russell email@example.com or 419-724-6178.
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