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    Quiz: The Truth About the Common Cold

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    How long can cold germs live on your bathroom sink?

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    How long can cold germs live on your bathroom sink?

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    They can also survive for that long on things like your kitchen counter and that doorknob your preschooler just touched after wiping his nose without a tissue. If someone in your house has a cold, wipe surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant.

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    By the time you have cold symptoms, you're not contagious anymore.

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    By the time you have cold symptoms, you're not contagious anymore.

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    Colds spread most easily before your symptoms start and during the first 2-4 days after they begin. You don't have to hide in a bubble, but try to avoid close contact with others when you're sick, and wash your hands frequently. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough -- or use the crook of your elbow. (You don't usually touch people or objects with your elbow, so you're less likely to spread germs than if you cover your mouth with your bare hand.)

    What causes colds?

    What causes colds?

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    There are more than 200 that make you sick, and the rhinovirus is the most common. Antibiotics don't work against viruses. They're designed to fight bacteria. Using them to treat a cold not only doesn't help, it can be hazardous.

    If you go outside with wet hair when it's chilly, you'll probably catch a cold.

    If you go outside with wet hair when it's chilly, you'll probably catch a cold.

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    "Don't go out with that wet head, you'll catch your death of cold!" Despite your mom's warnings, it doesn't put you at greater risk. You might feel chilled and uncomfortable, but colds are spread by germs, not the temperature.

    People catch more colds in winter because:

    People catch more colds in winter because:

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    Colds are spread by close contact, and in the winter we spend a lot more time inside, keeping warm. That means we're more exposed to other people -- and their germs. Winter air is also much drier than the air in spring and summer, and cold viruses tend to thrive in low humidity. (Running a humidifier in your bedroom during the coldest winter months can help with cold symptoms.)

    Echinacea or vitamin C helps prevent catching a cold or shortens a cold if you already have one.

    Echinacea or vitamin C helps prevent catching a cold or shortens a cold if you already have one.

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    Some people swear by vitamin C or echinacea. But there is very little proof that vitamin C has any effect on the average person with a common cold. Studies have shown that very high doses of vitamin C may reduce your chance of getting a cold, but only under certain circumstances. High doses of vitamin C can hurt the kidneys and can cause nausea and diarrhea.

    Echinacea is one of the best-selling herbal products in the U.S., but many researchers believe there is no proof that it has a benefit for people with colds.

    When your preschooler has a cold, the best treatment is:

    When your preschooler has a cold, the best treatment is:

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    The best remedy for him is an old-fashioned one: Stay in bed and get plenty to drink. Don't give over-the-counter cold and cough medications to children under age 4. There's no evidence that these medicines help children. Some believe the possible benefits are not worth the risk.

    Grandma was right: Chicken soup can help relieve a cold.

    Grandma was right: Chicken soup can help relieve a cold.

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    It helps break up your stuffy nose. Some studies suggest that it curbs the inflammation that leads to a sore throat. And when you're feeling run-down, the combination of lean protein and vegetables can help boost your strength to fight off illness.

    The best way to prevent a cold is:

    The best way to prevent a cold is:

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    Here's how to do it right: Wet your hands first, then apply soap, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. That's how long it takes you to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Hand sanitizers can also be a good supplement to handwashing.

    Even if your child seems to get a cold every month, it's probably not a sign of a more serious problem.

    Even if your child seems to get a cold every month, it's probably not a sign of a more serious problem.

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    Kids get between 6 and 10 colds every year -- including spring and summer -- so it's not unusual for your child to be sniffling and sneezing every other month, or even more often. If he's in day care, preschool, or another setting where he spends a lot of time with other kids, he'll get exposed to lots of germs.

    It's probably the flu -- not just a cold -- if you have:

    It's probably the flu -- not just a cold -- if you have:

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    Some people do run a slight fever along with a cold, but if you have a high temperature it's more likely the flu or a complication. Fatigue, while more common with the flu, also happens with colds.

    Stressed out? You're more likely to catch a cold.

    Stressed out? You're more likely to catch a cold.

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    It's not just your yoga teacher trying to persuade you to take another class: Studies show that people are more likely to catch a cold when they're under stress. You may be more vulnerable to getting sick if you face stress that lasts more than 1 month, like trouble at work or problems in your family relationships.

    If you have a runny nose, green-tinged mucus means:

    If you have a runny nose, green-tinged mucus means:

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    Mucus from a runny nose often changes color during a cold, sometimes several times. It's usually clear at first and then changes to a white or yellowish color as your immune system fights back. Green-tinged mucus means the bacteria that normally live in your nose are growing back. All of this is normal and shouldn't cause you to panic.

    The flu vaccine also works for colds.

    The flu vaccine also works for colds.

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    It only protects you from the virus that causes the flu. Scientists are trying to create a vaccine for the common cold, but it's a tough job because there are hundreds of viruses that can cause one. It probably will be many years before any vaccine is effective against colds.

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