The Dreaded C Word – how to prepare for the common cold

Boots crunching through fresh snow, the wind rustling through leafless tress, jingle bells ringing faintly in the distance? these are the sounds of winter we all enjoy. Sneezing, sniffling, coughing and blowing noses ? these are sounds of winter we can all do without. Unfortunately winter has been given a bad rap, as it has become synonymous with the dreaded cold and flu season. But by following some simple tips on how to prepare, you?ll be able to enjoy the sound of silence this winter, and leave the symphony of sneezing and sniffling behind.

Studies show that the average person contracts about three colds per year, and those with young children tend to get even more. ?Prevention is the best medicine for colds and the flu,? explains family physician, Dr. Jennifer Pettigrew. ?However, once it?s taken hold, the best you can do is try to minimize your symptoms and be careful not to spread it around.?

Although colds and the flu are more common during the winter months, they are caused by viruses, not by exposure to cold air or going out with wet hair. These viruses are spread through physical contact, such as touching, kissing or shaking hands with infected people and their secretions (i.e. a runny nose) and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose with that germ infected hand. Many viruses can live for a least half an hour on the hands and for several hours on countertops, toys and other surfaces. They are also spread through the air on tiny droplets of infected water that come out when someone with a cold or flu sneezes or coughs near you.

Keep it clean

Careful hygiene and regular housecleaning can help keep viruses at bay. Frequent handwashing is the simplest and most effective ways to keep from catching a cold or the flu. In fact, according to the Purell Prevention Poll, nine in 10 Canadian physicians believe that effective hand hygiene is the number one step in minimizing germ exposure. Scrub with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds each time you wash. Using alcohol-based instant hand sanitizers, like Purell, kills 99.99 % of germs on your hands that can make you sick and provides protection when you don?t have access to soap and water.

Just in case you do catch a cold or the flu, make sure your medicine cabinet is fully stocked with current over-the-counter medications. You should examine the contents of your medicine cabinet at least once a year and discard any expired medications.

With a little thought and preparation you have a better chance of an illness-free winter, leaving you more time for skiing, snowboarding, skating, tobogganing, building snowmen, snowshoeing?

Yuck! Clean up. Viruses can survive up from 20 minutes to two hours or more on objects such as telephones and stair railings. Keeping these common surfaces clean will help prevent spread of infection.