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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Frequently Asked Questions About the Common Cold

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5. How effective are natural remedies like zinc, echinacea, and vitamin C? continued...

To prevent colds the natural way, it's best to make sure you've got a well-nourished immune system. Dark greens foods like spinach are loaded with vitamins A and C. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation. Low-fat yogurt may help stimulate the immune system.

Regular exercise - aerobics and walking - also boosts the immune system. People who exercise may still catch a virus, but they have less severe symptoms. They may recover more quickly.

6. Should I go to the doctor or get an antibiotic?

You usually don't need a doctor or an antibiotic when you have a cold. Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.

But a cold can turn into a sinus infection. If your sinuses become blocked and cannot drain properly, you can develop inflammation and a bacterial infection. An ear infection may also result from a bout with a cold. Although sinus and ear infections can improve on their own, sometimes you need antibiotics to clear the bacterial infections from your body.

Symptoms of an ear infection include ear pain, fever, and/or a feeling of fullness in the ears.

Symptoms of a sinus infection include a runny or stuffy nose, facial pain and pressure, fever, and headache.

7. Should I stay at home if I have a cold?

You're contagious for the first few days of your cold, so it's best to stay home then. You need to be careful about coughing and sneezing around other people. Also, you will recover quicker if you get some rest.

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.

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