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Question: How can I best protect myself from catching a winter cold?

Answer: There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from respiratory viral illnesses. If you do get sick, we’ve got some tips for a quick recovery.

As Dr. Paula Jones, an Infectious Disease Specialist with Columbia St. Mary’s explains, a cold is an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract caused by a viral infection. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, they send tiny droplets of mucus into the air that may be inhaled by another person. In addition, an infected person may contaminate surfaces like doorknobs, phones or keyboards by touching them. If you touch these contaminated surfaces and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you may become ill.

Here are some precautions to reduce your chances of becoming infected with a respiratory virus:

Wash your hands frequently
To kill the germs you may have picked up from inadvertently touching contaminated surfaces in public places like the mall or the gym, wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 10 seconds or more. Travel-size, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes are also helpful in killing germs.

Use tissue and then toss
Use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs. Be sure to throw out the tissues right away to avoid accidentally contaminating other surfaces.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle
To keep your immune system in good shape and best prepared to fight off infection, eat a well-balanced diet, get adequate sleep, keep stress to a minimum, exercise often and don’t smoke.

Avoid contact with people who are ill
Put off unnecessary contact with people who are sick with a respiratory viral illness.

Don’t share 
Someone who has a cold should not share drinking glasses, eating utensils or hand towels.


If you do catch a winter cold, take these steps to speed up your recovery: 

  • Over-the-counter medications may help with symptoms.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier when you sleep.
  • Limit your activities and get plenty of rest.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after you blow your nose or sneeze.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of clear liquids (water, juice, clear soups, etc) daily.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.




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