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Healthy Aging

5 Simple Ways to Spread Cold Germs

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/10/2014
Last Updated: 03/10/2014

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I've had more colds the past few months then I've had for the last five years combined. And it seems that all around me, people are sneezing, coughing and blowing their (very red) noses.

What gives? Just why are so many people sick?

It's not that everyone is walking outside with wet hair or getting chilled. Those are old wives tales, after all.

What is true: Colds are contagious. People tend to get more colds in the winter partly because the cold, nasty weather keeps them holed up indoors and in extremely close with another person's mucus.

Why break the cycle? You can spread cold germs without much effort at all.

  1. Don't wash your hands.
    This is the most efficient way to spread colds. The CDC says that about 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch. Cold germs are easily transmitted from your hands when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Likewise they're spread from person to person.

    If you do wash your hands, a sure way to keep those germs spreading is to quickly rinse them under cool running water (no soap!) for about 5 seconds; anything more than 20 seconds will surely kill off the germs you want to preserve. And, if you really want to keep spreading the germs, beware of hand sanitizers, a popular substitute for soap and water.
  2. When you sneeze or cough, don't cover your nose and mouth.
    Why use the crook of your elbow or a tissue? That's just too much extra work. Better to spread the wealth.
  3. Don't disinfect.
    Leave those poor cold germs alone. Let them live on the surfaces they truly love. Better to ignore areas like tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, faucets and toys and go relax instead. A disinfecting spray or wipe is evil as far as the germs are concerned.
  4. Be thrifty.
    There's no reason to make sure everyone in your house uses their own towel or cup in the bathroom if you're sick. Why would you do that? That just makes extra laundry and garbage and is not in the true spirit of sharing.
  5. Ignore your health.
    If you eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and reduce stress as much as possible, that might only help prevent colds. And then the germs won't get their chance to multiply and you won't get your chance to suffer along with everyone else. While you're at it, make sure to stay away from protein like fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and tofu. Why? These foods contain valuable infection-fighting minerals like magnesium and zinc, things your body needs these to maintain its health and for optimal physiological function.

And forget about trying things like zinc. Studies show that it can be effective if taken within 24 hours of the onset of your symptoms. Then you might have to keep the cold all to yourself.

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And then, when you're sick ... make sure you show up at work and at parties.

Absolutely, Ruth. It's a perfect way to share.

Good tips. I always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse. When we eat out, we use it after our menus are taken away. I learned that tip when preparing for our cruise - I read somewhere about how many hands had touched the menus or serving utensils on cruise ships! The other thing I always do is wash my hands the minute I walk into the house, no matter where I was.

I agree, Brette. Most people don't think about washing up AFTER touching the menu. And I"m like you; I head right to the sink when I walk into the house.

Everyone I know has been sick this winter. I hadn't had a bad cold in many years, but I was pretty much in bed for about 17 days. Awful!

17 days? That IS a very long time - hope you're on the road to good (better) health!

Always good to keep these tips in mind during the season~

So true, Irene. Hope you have a cold-free season!

This is such an important piece and I thank you for writing it. People with compromised immune systems are so vulnerable to colds, so I am going to share this with the MS community.

I hope from here on in you are cold free!

Thanks for reading and sharing, Cathy!

The germs/virus this winter do seem harder to shake. Your post made me smile, but I really would like to know how to avoid getting colds. It seems everyone in Boston has a similar germ/virus. Interesting to know it is the same situation in CT.

I think the key thing to avoid colds is to avoid being around people who have them - and also to avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose if possible. Germs are so easily transmitted that way.

I've had the opposite experience! I usually live in Cold Central, but this year I've gotten away with just one mild cold. I find that taking zinc very early in the cold cycle--at the first sneeze or touch of sore throat--does stop them and make them more mild.

Hopefully, Spring will push those cold viruses out!

I agree, Nancy; zinc definitely helps if you start it early enough. At least, that has been my experience.

Ever since I saw "Contagion," I carry hand sanitizer everywhere! Although I'm afraid to jinx it by saying this out loud, my family has been very lucky with colds this winter and I hope if I keep following your tips, we'll stay that way!

I agree, Lois; that movie was scary.. May your luck and good health continue!

Wash your hands, people! I see so many people not do this. Yikes.

Oh, yes. It's scary to see people exit the restroom without using the sink.

#6. Don't pop a couple Airborne as soon as your throat feels scratchy. Maybe it's all in my head, but I swear that stuff staves off germs. I'm testing it right now because my son has a cold.

There are so many things - echinacea among them - that have limited evidence, but I swear work for me. So if Airborne is that for you, why not?

Oh it makes me feel ill just thinking about it - yucky!! This is why I always try and my health up with good food, diet, exercise and plenty of sleep

Sounds like you're doing all the right things, Maddie. Thanks for your comment!

This is the first winter I decided to get a flu shot - I opted for the quadrivalent rather than the trivalent. Coincidentally, not only did I not get the flu. But, unlike every other winter, I didn't get a cold, or sinusitis.


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