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Sick of It

With no true cure for the common cold, there are ways to overcome the sore throat, fever, streaming nose and headaches quicker. But make sure you separate fact from fiction and keep the Kleenex close.

Lindsay Morris
January 29, 2018

If you can avoid getting a cold during the ever-changing weather conditions in northeastern Oklahoma this time of year, you may have a super power. Or you may just know what to do and what not to do in order to avoid catching one.

With no true cure for the common cold, laymen and health professionals have come to their own conclusions on how to avoid getting one and the best ways to battle it once you have it. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the best medically tested ways to avoid catching a cold, and a few myths that haven’t actually been proven to keep you from getting a cold.

Hopefully after reading and applying these tips, you’ll never catch a cold again. But let’s be real here — if you do catch a cold, the good news is that it will likely only last seven to 10 days (though it may seem like an eternity). “Symptom control is paramount for this time period, as is continued hand-washing to prevent the spread to others,” says Jennifer Curran, APRN-CNP with OSU Medicine.

Although no medication can completely cure a virus, over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium help improve comfort levels for symptoms like headache and muscle pains. If you’re experiencing nasal symptoms, look for over-the-counter products containing cromolyn (such as NasalCrom). And if you have a nighttime cough, try dextromethorphan (“DM” in cough medicines) or a spoonful of honey before bed.


How Can You Avoid Getting the Common Cold?

Wash your hands
“Hand-washing is by far the best way to prevent contracting but also spreading common cold viruses,” Curran says.

Infections are spread via human and object contact. Especially after spending time in public places or if you are in contact with someone who has a cold, you should wash your hands pretty much nonstop. Or at the very least, spritz and rub some hand sanitizer on your hands.

Avoid close contact with others who show symptoms of a cold
“Studies have shown that droplets containing cold type viruses can be shared via coughing, talking in close proximity with others, and of course, kissing,” Curran says.

Again, harking back to tip No. 1, if you do have to be around people who have a cold, be sure to wash your hands even more than usual.

Interestingly, relatively small quantities of the virus reside on the lips or in the mouth. Most of it is found in the nasal cavity. Then again, it’s hard to be kissed without being breathed on as well.

Take a daily probiotic, and maybe throw in some vitamin C
“Probiotics containing high colony variety and volume may lessen the chance of getting a cold and shorten the length of the cold if you become ill,” Curran says.

It might also be worth popping a vitamin C, too. Whether or not vitamin C is effective at preventing and treating the common cold has been a subject of controversy for 70 years. However, one thing’s certain: It definitely won’t hurt you at the recommended dose.

Get your sleep and stay in good physical shape
Ensuring restorative sleep will also improve health and decrease chances of becoming ill. Also, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly and eat healthy diets are less likely to catch viruses. So be sure to take care of your body through proper rest and exercise if you want to ward off the cold.

Try to remain positive
A positive attitude about your body’s ability to heal itself can actually mobilize immune-system forces.


Myths about Preventing the Common Cold?

All colds can be treated through over-the-counter medications
Medical providers used to recommend using pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), guaifenesin (Mucinex) and nasal decongestants to treat the cold, Curran says. “These have not been proven to treat symptoms well in large studies, but can certainly still be used on a case-by-case basis depending on symptoms.”

The cold can be treated through antibiotics
“Antibiotics will not prevent or treat a cold in any form whatsoever but rather increase the strength of bacterial infections down the road,” Curran says. That’s because antibiotics kill only bacteria. If you find yourself begging your medical provider for a Z pack prescription when all you have is a cold, remember, you’re increasing your chances for future bacterial infections.

Going outside with wet hair will make you sick
You’ll probably feel chilled if you skip the blow dryer on a cold day, but not much else will happen, according to Health.com. Since colds are caused by a virus, having wet hair or even wet clothes won’t make you susceptible to infection.

Temperature changes can bring on a cold or heal you of it
Ever heard “sweat it out” from your grandma as a kid when you had a cold? “Being outside too long in the cold doesn’t bring on a cold, or layering up in clothes to sweat through the resolution of a cold are simply unfounded and myths,” Curran says.

Stay inside where it's warm
Staying inside actually increases your chances of getting infected. Enclosed spaces can expose you to a higher concentration of the virus.