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Frequently Asked Questions About the Common Cold

8. How can I prevent a cold?

Hand washing! Both flu and cold viruses are transmitted the same way -- through microscopic droplets from an infected person's respiratory system. Someone sneezes or coughs, and droplets are sprayed onto any nearby surface -- including you! If people cough or sneeze into their hands (without a tissue), they can contaminate every surface they touch. If you touch that same surface, you pick up the virus. If you rub your eyes or nose, you've just infected yourself.

To protect yourself and prevent spread of cold and flu viruses:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based gel if you don't have access to water.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into your hands. Wash your hands afterward with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based gel if you don't have access to water.
  • No tissue? When you cough, turn your head away from others.
  • If you have a sudden sneeze, bend your arm and sneeze into it.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash any shared surfaces (like phones and keyboards) frequently. Viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
  • Stay away from crowds during cold and flu season.


9. Can you catch a cold from getting chilled?

This is one of the most persistent myths about colds. The only way to catch a cold is by being exposed to a cold virus. Cold air may irritate an existing condition, such as asthma, which would weaken your immunity. This could make your body more receptive to a cold virus, but only if you come in contact with it. If you've caught a cold after getting chilled, it's only coincidence.

10. Why does my child always seem to have a cold?

School children are incredibly good at passing along a virus. Children naturally exhale more highly concentrated virus droplets than adults do. They also exhale them for longer periods of time. Plus, children are very active, always in each other's faces. And there is a general lack of hygiene -- children don't wash their hands frequently. They don't cover noses or mouths when they sneeze or cough. Even more importantly, they don't get very sick -- which means they continue to spread the virus while they are very contagious.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 21, 2014

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