Laura L. Meehan

It’s again the time of the year when you get the cold of your life. There is nothing to worry about because there is still time to keep things into control. Here are some tips that will keep the sneeze miles away.

Wash those germs away Until there is a cure for it, or a vaccine to prevent it, rhinovirus, or the common cold, will remain an annoying fact of life, particularly among young children. According to study preschoolers get an average of six to ten viral illnesses per year.

Kids who spend time around other children get the most colds, and the majority of these illnesses occur during the winter months when children spend more time indoors. This doesn’t mean we should stop sending our kids to school and day care, but we can try to limit their exposure to germs.

It is generally not necessary — or worthwhile — to isolate children with mild respiratory infections, including colds, if they feel comfortable, since the virus is contagious before the symptoms ever emerge. But having children avoid close contact with sick classmates and instructing them in the proper use and disposal of tissues, are important steps toward prevention.

Because colds are spread through contact with nasal and mouth secretions, the best way to prevent the spread of these germs is to have children wash their hands regularly: before every meal, after sneezing or blowing their nose, after handling pets, and when coming in from playing outdoors. Of course, it’s important that parents and teachers follow this advice, too. Studies show that many adults need to clean up their own act when it comes to hand-washing habits.

Toys and other surfaces with which children have close contact — crib rails, food preparation areas, sinks, and diaper-changing areas — should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Eat right, get enough sleep, and don’t smoke!

Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke also get more frequent colds. If there are smokers in your household, they should always smoke outside of the house (better yet, they should quit). It is also important that your child get enough sleep each night. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation increases susceptibility to colds.

People used to think that taking large doses of vitamin C could help prevent colds, but studies have shown otherwise. If your child has unusual dietary habits and could be lacking certain vitamins, then it would be reasonable to give him a supplement, but there is no known benefit to giving a healthy child extra doses of vitamins.

Recently, there have been claims that certain herbs may help prevent colds, but since these are still inconclusive, many other medical practitioners don’t recommend this approach.

Clean offence is the best defence Chances are, the rhinovirus will rear its ugly head at your house this year, but there are ways to fight it and possibly reduce the amount of times it gets through your door. Here’s the most effective line of attack: Stock up on tissue, hand soap, and disinfectant, set a good example, and teach your kids to wash those germs away!

Myths and facts

Myth 1: The greatest myth about the common cold is that susceptibility to colds requires a weakened immune system.

Facts 1: Healthy people with normal immune systems are highly susceptible to cold virus infection once the virus enters the nose.

Myth 2: Having cold symptoms is good for you because they help you get over a cold, therefore you should not treat a cold.

Facts 2: Approximately 25 per cent of people who get a cold virus infection do not develop symptoms and yet they get over the infection as well as people who do have symptoms.

Myth 3: Drinking milk causes increased nasal mucus during a cold.

Facts 3: Milk is digested like any other protein and is not specifically converted into nasal mucus.

Myth 4: Large doses of Vitamin C can keep you from catching the flu or a cold, or will quickly cure them.

Fact 4: These claims have not been proven. Still, it is important to one’s overall health to consume the minimum daily requirement of Vitamin C.

Myth 5: Herbal remedies are an effective treatment for colds.

Fact 5: Echinacea and other herbs are getting a lot of publicity as cold remedies. Zinc lozenges are also said to cure colds quickly. To date, none of these claims are solidly supported by scientific studies.

Myth 6: Chicken soup and hot toddies are effective treatments for the flu or colds.

Fact 6: A bowl of chicken soup is a popular home remedy. While hot liquids can soothe a scratchy throat or cough, it has no special power to cure the flu or a cold. As for hot toddies, another folk remedy, any beverage containing alcohol should be avoided when you are sick.