Thursday, October 7, 2010

Common Cold 101: Home remedies & Prevention

We call it the “common cold” for good reason. There are over one billion colds in the United States alone each year. You and your children will probably have more colds than any other type of illness. Children average three to eight colds per year. They continue getting them throughout childhood. Parents often get them from the kids. Colds are the most common reason that children miss school and parents miss work.

When someone has a cold, their runny nose is teeming with cold viruses. Sneezing, nose-blowing, and nose-wiping spread the virus. You can catch a cold by inhaling the virus if you are sitting close to someone who sneezes, or by touching your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus.

People are most contagious for the first 2 to 3 days of a cold, and usually not contagious at all by day 7 to 10.

- Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Over-the-counter cold remedies may help ease your symptoms. These won't actually shorten the length of a cold, but can help you feel better.
- Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold. They will not help and may make the situation worse.
- Chicken soup has been used for treating common colds at least since the 12th century. It may really help. The heat, fluid, and salt may help you fight the infection.
- Alternative treatments that have also been used include Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc

The symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days. Try home care measures first. Visit your health care provider if breathing difficulty develops or symptoms worsen or do not improve after 7 to 10 days.

It might seem overwhelming to try to prevent colds, but you can do it. Children average three to eight colds per year.

Here are five proven ways to reduce exposure to germs:
- Always wash your hands: Children and adults should wash hands at key moments -- after nose-wiping, after diapering or toileting, before eating, and before preparing food.
- Disinfect: Clean commonly touched surfaces (sink handles, sleeping mats) with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
- Switch day care: Using a day care where there are six or fewer children dramatically reduces germ contact.
- Use instant hand sanitizers: A little dab will kill 99.99% of germs without any water or towels. The products use alcohol to destroy germs. They are an antiseptic, not an antibiotic, so resistance can't develop.
- Use paper towels instead of shared cloth towels.

Here are six ways to support the immune system:
- Avoid secondhand smoke: Keep as far away from secondhand smoke as possible It is responsible for many health problems, including millions of colds.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotics: The more people use antibiotics, the more likely they are to get sick with longer, more stubborn infections caused by more resistant organisms in the future.
- Breastfeed: Breast milk is known to protect against respiratory tract infections, even years after breastfeeding is done. Kids who don't breastfeed average five times more ear infections.
- Drink water: Your body needs fluids for the immune system to function properly.
- Eat yogurt: The beneficial bacteria in some active yogurt cultures help prevent colds.
- Get enough sleep: Late bedtimes and poor sleep leave people vulnerable.

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