Concern over common cold spread, as well as the spread of other viruses in schools, hospitals and other public places, should lead to increased focus on good health habits. There are over 200 viruses that cause common colds and washing with soap and warm water kills them. One of the best habits to remember in order to avoid coming down with a cold is to wash your hands before you touch your face, particularly your nose or mouth.
The rhinovirus, the virus that is most easily grown in a laboratory setting and the subject of most studies, can live for up to three hours on skin and surfaces. Once the rhinovirus enters the nose, it grows easily and infects the lining of the nose, causing sneezing, congestion, coughing and often a low grade fever. Scientists estimate that rhinoviruses cause approximately 30-35 percent of adult common colds. For unknown reasons, some people become infected with rhinoviruses and never develop symptoms, but may still be responsible for common cold spread, since the virus can still be found in nasal secretions.
Common colds are one of the leading causes of missed school days and doctor visits, even though that doctor visit may be unnecessary. Studies indicate that viruses and common cold spread in the waiting rooms of hospitals and doctor’s offices. These viruses become airborne when a person sneezes or coughs. So, another good health habit to remember, when you have a cold, is to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), children have about six to ten common colds per year. Adults typically have less, with the average around three, but the range varies widely. Those who work with the public and in hospitals have more than those who work at home or in small offices. People who have asthma are more susceptible to common colds than the average person. Recent studies have shown that asthmatics produce less anti-viral proteins, a function of the immune system, than normal. Supporting the belief that efforts to maintain a healthy immune system can reduce the number of colds a person has per year and thus reduce common cold spread.
Experts believe that children have more common colds than adults because daycare and school settings lead to close contact with other children. Children often forget to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing and washing hands is not a priority for them. Many elementary schools now request that parents supply tissues and waterless alcohol-based hand washing products in an effort to reduce common cold spread in schools. Additionally, since the rhinoviruses can live for several hours on surfaces, recommendations for preventing common cold spread include cleaning phones, stair rails, door knobs and other areas that people touch frequently with a disinfectant.
Expert opinions vary about the effectiveness of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other plant products for preventing and/or treating the common cold. Thousands of clinical studies have been performed, but results are not always reproducible. For example, two recent studies support the use of zinc nasal gels to reduce the duration of common cold symptoms, but one contradicts those findings and suggests that it is unethical to recommend a product that can cause permanent loss of the sense of smell to treat a temporary condition like the common cold. All of the studies were performed by reputable researchers, with no motive other than to help and inform the public, but when scientists cannot agree on an appropriate treatment, it leaves the general public more confused.
Health supplements that are safe and can help prevent common colds by supporting normal immune system function include; vitamin C (which works best when taken with calcium and magnesium), zinc supplements (which at normal dosages and taken in tablet form do not cause adverse side effects), green tea (a subject of numerous studies), Andrographis paniculata (which reduces flu symptoms and the likelihood of developing complications from viral infections), and many other natural substances. To learn more about how to reduce common cold spread, visit the Immune System Booster Guide.