That time of year for the common cold

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

It's been going around our workplace...has it been going around yours? We’re talking about the dreaded common cold. Sniffles, coughs and sneezes are common sounds you hear at the office this time of year, and it's no surprise. There's about a million other places you'll want to include on your "disinfect" list this season!

It turns out; catching snowflakes in your mouth can harbor bacteria. Inside a single crystal of frozen water, you'll get as much bacteria as if you're playing in dirt. The grocery cart is also a common place to find fecal germs -- even more so than the average public bathroom. And as you head out for some holiday cocktails, watch out for the restaurant menu. Experts say the cold virus can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces.

So is this cold season off to a bad start? Well not yet anyway. Doctors say there has been an uptick in colds but he attributes that to the colder temperatures and more of us spending time inside where the germ pool is able to circulate. That's why he says prevention is critical.

Dr. Paul Loomis with mayo clinic health system says the good news is he hasn't seen many cases of flu so far this year. "Most of it has been upper respitory infections caused by viruses and so we're seeing people come in with sinus infections, cough, fever, congestion that type of thing."

He says the typical cold can last about one to two weeks. "The challenge with immune system and viruses…there's so much complexity and variations." So if you've been suffering for several days it may not necessarily mean you have something worse. Some people can be sick from a virus for only a day or two. "There’s really no set rule that says how long things should last."

"Sometimes we'll see viruses that linger for a while and so what we look for is worsening symptoms," explains Dr. Loomis. If that's the case where symptoms are worsening past one or two weeks, Dr. Loomis says that's a good time to see your doctor. But to avoid any duration of the common cold he says it's all about prevention.

"The old adage of using your hands is being frowned upon. So now we're advocating that people cough into their elbow and wash their hands, use sanitizing lotion or plain soap and water works great too."

It's something the practice every day at UW Eau Claire’s children's nature academy

"We do a lot of things to help prevent the spread of disease. We do a lot of hand washing," says director Becky Wurzer.

There are plenty of products out there like these to prevent colds like hand sanitizers plus products that disinfect. The Children's Nature Center actually makes their own using one tablespoon bleach mixed with one quart of water. They put it in spray bottles and use it on the tables and toys and they told me so far this year they haven't had much of an issue with illness.

Here are some links to resources for fighting the common cold from the Mayo Clinic Health System.

The Common Cold

Cold Remedies

The Flu

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