Winning the common cold war

by Karen Bowen

As cold temperatures settle in, so does cold season. Since the common cold – an upper respiratory tract infection that affects the nose and throat – can be caused by more than 100 viruses, you are likely to be exposed to at least one of them this winter.

Fortunately, if you’ve already been infected by a certain virus, you are probably immune – but only to that specific virus and not the 99 others. That is why it’s possible to catch a number of colds in one season, and many more throughout your lifetime.

Since your mouth, eyes, and nose are gateways for cold viruses, when possible, monitor your surroundings to guard against exposure. Is someone with a cold nearby coughing, sneezing, or speaking close to your face? Could any surfaces you recently touched be contaminated by someone’s cold virus? Have you recently touched a person with
cold symptoms?

Remember that personal contact with an infected person (shaking hands or breathing in infected droplets from a cough or sneeze) is the most common way to catch a cold, so avoid infection by not touching your mouth, nose and eyes, or biting your nails. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water frequently, and carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your pocket or rig to use when water is not available.

Be aware that virus-laden droplets can remain infectious on surfaces for more than two hours, and that stainless steel, plastic and other hard surfaces are worse than fabric or other soft surfaces. So, you don’t need to worry about who recently touched your fabric seats, but was the person sick who last touched your steering wheel, radio dial, gear stick, door handle, pen, or coffee pot?

To maintain a sanitary work environment that protects yourself and others, use bleach wipes to sanitize the surfaces in your rig and home base at the beginning and end of every shift. Keep a good stock of Kleenex in your rig and carry a plastic garbage bag so you can dispose of infected tissues daily.

Since the common cold is caused by a virus, it has no cure – antibiotics are not effective. Once you catch a cold, expect your symptoms to last up to two weeks. However, the following cold remedies may ease your symptoms and help you feel better faster.

Get extra rest – your body needs time to heal. Stay hydrated – help the mucous stay loose so it can leave your body easily by drinking lots of water, juice, clear broth, or warm lemon water with honey. Soothe your throat and relieve congestion by sipping warm liquids, such as chicken soup, tea, or warmed apple juice. Avoid dehydrating drinks, such as alcohol, caffeinated sodas, and coffee. Add moisture to the air with a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to help loosen congestion as well.

Gargle to soothe your sore throat – a saltwater gargle composed of a solution of half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water can temporarily relieve the pain of a scratchy, inflamed throat. Or, try sucking on lozenges, hard candy, ice chips, or using anesthetic, sore throat sprays.

Even without shortening or curing your cold, over-the-counter cough and cold medications, decongestants, antihistamines ,or pain relievers may help reduce your symptoms. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.), or aspirin will relieve your pain. Be sure to read and follow all medications’ instructions so they don’t affect your concentration or impair your driving skills.

Some studies show certain nutrients can help your body fight a cold. Taking Vitamin C before you catch a cold may shorten the duration of symptoms.

Zinc lozenges or syrup, or taking echinacea for 10 days after first noticing cold symptoms may also shorten the length of your cold. However, echinacea may interact with other medications, so be aware of possible side-effects.

Since it’s winter season again – prepare yourself to fight the common cold war.

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