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Common Cold

Common Cold Prevention

Suggestions for preventing the common cold include:

Avoid others while you have cold symptoms and are contagious (i.e., 2-7 days) - Depending on the offending virus, the common cold may be transmitted from one person to another via inhalation. This is because viral particles are small enough to be suspended in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose. Since some viruses can live for up to 3 hours on human skin, the cold can also be transmitted via direct contact with an infected person (NIAID 2011c; Turner 2011; NIH 2012A).

Infected individuals should direct their cough or sneeze into the inner crook of their elbow, rather than into their hand(s) or directly into the air - The contagious particles from a cough or sneeze occasionally land on environmental objects or surfaces, where rhinoviruses can also survive for up to 3 hours (NIH 2012a; Nicas 2008; NIAID 2011c).

Avoid touching eyes, nose, and/or mouth during cold outbreaks - For most people this task is extremely difficult, especially since the average person touches their face approximately 16 times per hour. Given that unconscious face touching is almost unavoidable, hand washing/sanitizing and using surface disinfectants to prevent the spread of the common cold is important (NIH 2012a; Nicas 2008; NIAID 2011c).

Lifestyle modifications such as exercising have proven to be effective at reducing the number of common cold infections (NIAID 2011c). Individuals who become infected with mild to moderate cases of the cold should continue their exercise routine, provided their symptoms are not body-wide (Simon 2012).

Adequate sleep quantity and quality are important for protecting against common cold – Sleep is known to modulate the immune responses through the production of regulatory cytokines (Teodorescu 2012; Walsh 2011).

When possible, limit your exposure to children (particularly via day-care centers) during peak cold season – Since children are much more likely to contract a cold than adults (6-8 colds/yr. vs. 2-4 colds/yr., respectively), the adult risk of infection increases with increased contact with children, especially in close quarters (Lissiman 2012; Turner 2009). If this cannot be avoided, you should take extra precautions to wash/sanitize your hands and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated (NIH 2012a; Nicas 2008; NIAID 2011c).