Keep the common cold outside

by Karen Bowen

As the leaves and temperatures drop, we know that winter is approaching. To maintain your health over the next few months, use these common sense tips to avoid (and fight) the common cold.

The common cold is a viral infection caused by a variety of viruses that settle in your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat).

The cold virus (most commonly rhinoviruses) disperses through the air on water droplets expelled when someone with a cold talks, coughs or sneezes. The virus then enters your body through your nose, eyes or mouth.

Colds can also be spread by touching surfaces or objects a sick person has contaminated, and then carrying the infection back to your eyes, nose or mouth on your own hands.

In your rig, common sites of contamination can include the steering wheel, CB radio, radio dials, mirrors, gearshift, turn signal, etc.

Once the virus enters your body, you will likely catch cold, especially if you have a chronic illness or weakened immune system, or if you smoke.

Although healthy adults typically develop two or three colds each year (usually lasting seven to 10 days), you can take steps to avoid them.

Before starting your workday, use bleach wipes to wipe down the interior surfaces of your cab every time you take over from another driver and when you have just recovered from a previous cold.

Don’t re-infect yourself. Wash your hands often with soap and water, when possible; or, carry a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your pocket for convenience.

Keep a box of Kleenex handy for blowing your nose and catching coughs and sneezes. After each use, throw the soiled tissue away and then wash your hands.

If there isn’t time to grab a tissue before a sudden sneeze or cough, lean into your elbow to avoid spreading germs throughout your cab.

Don’t touch other people’s possibly contaminated items.

Use your own supply of pens, cups, and water bottles. When you know someone has a cold, keep your distance.

Even when you’re careful, you may still catch a cold.

Your cold symptoms, which vary among people, generally appear up to three days after being exposed to the virus and include: a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, chest or nasal congestion, mild body aches or headache, sneezing, low-grade fever, and/or a general feeling of malaise.

You can probably fight it on your own. Medical attention is rarely needed, unless your fever goes above 38.5 C (101.5 F), you have a severe sore throat, sinus pain or headache; and/or you experience wheezing or shortness of breath.

If your cold is less severe and your health is good, do the following: Stay hydrated. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks; they cause dehydration. Carry a supply of water, juice and/or clear broth.

Sip warm water with lemon and honey, hot tea, chicken soup or warm apple juice to loosen congestion and increase mucous flow.

As well, help clear congestion with over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays; or, use a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier when sleeping in your bunk.

Soothe your sore throat with lozenges or a saltwater gargle of about half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water. Reduce your pain with acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) or aspirin.

Use over-the-counter cold and cough medications (decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers) to help relieve your symptoms, but keep in mind that they won’t prevent a cold or shorten its duration.

Be careful. Read the labels and take as directed, since most have side effects and some may impact your ability to drive safely.

Alternative cold remedies may help, too.

Although studies show these supplements do not prevent colds, the following may reduce the length and severity of your cold, particularly when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms: Vitamin C; Echinacea; and zinc.

As winter approaches, keep the common cold outside.


Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at

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