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The touch of a cold: How to stay healthy this cold and flu season

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 10/26/2017, 5:08 p.m.
Well, the sneeze and sore throat season is upon us with a vengeance.
Medicine CDC/ Debora Cartagena acquired from Public Health Image Library

Well, the sneeze and sore throat season is upon us with a vengeance. I don’t know about you, but even I have had an unexplained cough with a tickle in my throat. I could never understand why folks refer to these symptoms as having a cold. Generally, what you really have is an infection caused by a virus that generally does not respond to antibiotics. Often, these symptoms can be relieved by some hot chicken broth with plenty of onions and garlic.

The cold virus is usually put to rest by “killer cells,” which are produced by the magnificent immune system in our bodies. It is therefore obvious that the immune system should be kept healthy by the intake of nutrients such as vitamin A (beta carotene), found in all colored fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin C and E. If the cold symptoms persist, they should be evaluated by your physician.

How does the virus get into the body? It was once thought that if someone sneezed in your face, the recipient of the spray would develop a so-called cold. This mode of infection has recently been discounted as the main cause. It appears that the virus enters the body by direct contact with a viral-contaminated hand, and then introducing the virus to the inner lining of the nose or eyes. This transfer is referred to as hand-to-face contact. When a hand becomes contaminated with a cold virus from such objects as handrails, subway poles, banisters, doorknobs, phones and, last but not least, steering wheels of cars, the virus is well and alive to be transmitted. To decontaminate your hands, it is necessary to wash them for at least 20 seconds in hot, sudsy water. The steering wheel in your car can often be contaminated by a driver who is parking the car. It is obvious therefore that the steering wheel could be contaminated and should be sanitized with available wipes or a dilute solution of bleach and water.

Just remember, shaking a viral contaminated hand can sometimes lead to your unexplained cold symptoms and can be reduced by observing the above precautions.

Finally, be very careful when kissing that beautiful runny-nosed grandchild. Those tears and noses are loaded with cold viruses, and it seems that children can get over these symptoms faster than we can.