6 Ways to Prevent the Common Cold

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are over one billion colds in the United States each year. This makes the common cold the most widespread infectious disease around and the number one reason why kids miss school and parents miss work.1

To avoid being just another statistic, follow these handy cold prevention tips:

Wash Your Hands Frequently

Because about 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, it’s not surprising to learn that hand washing is the most effective defense against the common cold.2 Scrub your hands vigorously with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, under your fingernails, between your fingers and your wrists. If soap and water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead, until you can get to a water basin.

Choose Single-Use Towels

After a thorough hand washing, there’s nothing worse than drying your hands with the family towel, especially when other family members are sick. To cut down on germs, use a single-use towel to dry your hands and turn off the water faucet.2

Cover Your Cough

If you cough or sneeze into your hand, guess where the germs end up? Always cough or sneeze into a tissue, discard the tissue in the appropriate trash receptacle and follow with immediate hand washing. If you don’t have a tissue on hand, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm.1

Keep Your Distance

Avoiding crowds and sick people is critical if you want to reduce your risk of getting sick this season. If complete avoidance isn’t possible, don’t be afraid to create some extra distance between you and the person who is sick, especially if they’re coughing or sneezing a lot.2

Disinfect Your Environment

Can you say Lysol? During cold season I bet you can! Disinfect your home environment, especially your bathroom and kitchen, on a regular basis. Avoid sponges and rags – they harbor nasty germs. WebMD says if you must use sponges, to change them weekly or soak them in bleach for 15 minutes.2

Avoid Touching Your Mucous Membranes

Because the common cold is spread from hand to mouth, nose or eye contact, it’s important to avoid touching your mucous membranes unless you’ve just sanitized your hands. If you must touch, use a tissue.

Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN

1 The National Institutes of Health. Common Cold. October 31, 2013.
2 Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD. Tips to Help Prevent Colds and Flu. WebMD. Accessed January 23, 2014.

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