What Puts You at Risk for the Common Cold?
College Dorms Increase the Risk of Colds
College dorms are germ havens as people from all around the world live together in a tight space, breathe the same air, touch the same surfaces -- and share the same germs. If you or a loved one will be living in a dorm or other close quarters, consider the following strategies to help avoid infection:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Keep your immune system working at its peak by getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and avoiding stress as much as possible.
- Avoid taking on more work than you can handle. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system and make it easier for you to get sick.
- Make sure all your immunizations are current. And get a flu shot each year. Most college campuses have inexpensive flu vaccines available for students and faculty members soon after school starts in the fall.
People With Weak Immune Systems Are at Higher Risk of Colds
Individuals with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of catching a cold. This includes patients with AIDS who have impaired immune systems, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and people on immunosuppressive therapy such as organ transplant recipients.
To protect the health of family members with impaired immune function:
- Make sure that everyone in the family and all caregivers are current with their immunizations and get annual flu vaccinations.
- Provide a varied, nutritious diet and make sure they get adequate rest.
- Make sure all visitors are well and use precautions such as wearing gloves and masks if they get near the person with a weakened immune system.
Older Adults Have an Increased Risk of Colds
Many older adults are more susceptible to cold viruses. They also may have trouble getting over a cold. Here are tips for older adults to help reduce the risk of colds and other infections:
- Keep your immunizations current. There is no vaccine against the cold, but be sure to ask your doctor about the flu vaccine, pneumonia vaccine, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whopping cough) booster and the shot to help prevent shingles.
- Eat a healthful diet, get sufficient exercise, drink lots of water, and get plenty of rest to keep your immune system functioning optimally.
- Wash your hands thoroughly several times a day, upon rising, before and after preparing food, before and after eating, and after using the bathroom. Many contagious diseases are transmitted by touch. Thorough hand washing can significantly reduce your risk of infection.
- Replace your toothbrush regularly, and keep family toothbrushes separate, particularly when someone in the family gets sick.
No matter what your age or health situation, start today to prevent colds and avoid getting another viral or bacterial infection. When you do, you'll make the future healthier for yourself and for those around you.