Dr. Randy Martin: It’s the time of year when we all get together for the holiday season. There is a lot of giving and receiving of gifts, but there is one gift you don’t want to give or receive, and that’s the cold virus. This is the time of year when a lot of people come down with the common cold. In fact, every year there are about one billion colds. The virus is more common in children and young women because they are often taking care of children.
There are actually 100 different viruses that cause colds, which is why we don’t have a vaccine to prevent the common cold. Cold germs are spread when we cough, sneeze or we touch our faces and then touch common surfaces.
When you sneeze, you are actually sneezing out 40,000 little droplets that can have the cold viruses in them. These are going out of your body at 95 to 100 miles per hour, which causes them to spread out everywhere.
One of the key things you want to do to prevent colds is wash your hands. Any surface you touch could be infected. In fact, if you shake hands with somebody, you are more likely to contract the cold virus than if you kiss them.
The next thing you want to do is not touch your face. I know – this is hard to do! We touch our faces hundreds of times throughout the day, touching our noses very frequently. Again, if you’ve got the viruses on your hands, you can catch a cold by touching your face.
Common sense things can boost your immune system, such as getting enough sleep (people who get more sleep catch fewer colds), exercising regularly, and eating and drinking right. Drink plenty of water and eat food like low-fat yogurt, which has been found to decrease your chances of getting a cold.
And yes – there is scientific evidence that chicken soup can alleviate cold symptoms.
You also need to think about the humidity of your room. We don’t get more colds because the weather is cold, but because we are inside in drier conditions. Cold viruses thrive in a dry, low-humidity environment. These environments also dry out our mucus membranes and make us more likely to become infected.