Last Modified: Sunday, November 11, 2012 6:42 PM
Cold and flu season is here and one local doctor reminds residents there are things you can do to prevent colds — or, if you have one, to lessen its severity.
Cold symptoms usually include nasal congestion, runny nose, scratchy throat and sneezing, said Dr. Mary Sherk, family medicine physician with Imperial Health. Because a cold is a virus, it can’t be treated with antibiotics.
“There are many over-the-counter remedies to help you feel better as your body fights a cold,” she said.
Several studies show that zinc can help you recover from a cold faster, Sherk said. Researchers reviewed evidence from 17 studies in which more than 2,000 people were randomly assigned to take either zinc tablets or a placebo. Their findings showed that people taking zinc reduced the length of a cold by an average of just over a day-and-a-half. People who took higher doses of zinc gained the most benefit; their colds were cut by nearly three days. The supplement zinc acetate showed the most effectiveness.
Sherk offered these tips that can stop a cold from spreading:
• Wash your hands. “The majority of infectious diseases can be spread by touching a surface with germs and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth,” Sherk said. “Keeping clean hands will go a long way to reducing the number of germs entering your body.”
• Disinfect. Doorknobs, phones, remote controls and handles on grocery store carts are some of the most common places where cold germs like to linger. Anytime you can, wipe down the area with disinfectant. “The goal isn’t to have a completely sterile environment because that’s unrealistic and your body doesn’t require it, but keeping germs at bay during the cold and flu season is a good idea,” she said.
• Practice good respiratory hygiene. Avoid sneezing all over a surface or on someone. When you need to cough or sneeze, do so in the crook of your elbow or in a tissue.
• Don’t share. A hand towel in the bathroom or toothbrushes could be harboring a multitude of germs. Sherk suggested using paper towels and toothbrush covers instead. If someone has a cold, have them use a separate blanket and pillow than the rest of the family.
Sherk reminded residents that people with colds become contagious two or three days before their symptoms begin and they remain contagious until their symptoms have gone.
“If you do come down with a cold, getting plenty of rest and fluids will help you recover as quickly as possible,” she said.