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Cold Symptoms - How to Prevent Them and Recover Faster

By Jessica Kelner, D.O. - February 11, 2019

Uhgg colds. No one likes them. Everyone wants them to go away as fast as possible. They seem to be an annoying, gross inconvenience in life.  

Why does it seem like people get sicker during winter time? 

You can get a cold anytime during the year, however, the winter months are commonly considered  to be "cold season".  During the winter, people spend more time indoors in close quarters, travel more frequently to see family or friends, and people get less vitamin D (from the sun).  The viruses that cause colds are spread more easily in colder, drier air.  So, if we had to put a time frame to "cold season", we could say it starts sometime around September and ends sometime around April in the United States.

Reasons why colds are more common during winter months:
1. Children spend more time indoors and in school sharing germs during the winter vs the summer. 
2. Being indoors means less sunlight exposure, which means less vitamin D production, and potentially weaker immune systems. 
3. People travel more frequently on planes during the winter months.  There are people that travel when they are sick and with re-circulated air on planes and the stress of traveling on the body, you are bound to get sick. 

Common Cold Symptoms
1. runny/stuffy nose
2. sore throat
3. headache
4. fever
5. body aches
6. sneezing
7. pressure in the head or face
8. fatigue
9. foggy feeling
10. post nasal drip
11. cough

How to Avoid Getting Sick During Cold Season 
1. Wash your hands often.  Make sure to wash them with warm water and antibacterial soap. You could use hand sanitizer between some good hand scrubbing.   

2.  Public places. If you are in a public place or on a public form of transportation and someone is coughing, sniffling or appearing to be sick, try to avoid sitting or standing close to them.  You can buy a face mask at your local pharmacy and put one of those babies on during more emergent situations (ie. you're stuck on a plane sitting next to someone that looks like deaths door).  Yea, you may look a little funny, but hey you won't be suffering for the next week feeling crummy. 

3.  Have sick co-workers? Maybe your pal in the cubicle next to you is hacking up a storm and you just are wishing she would go home and get better.  If you aren't her boss, you may not be able to get her to go home, but you can make sure that you sanitize/wash your hands often, get plenty of sleep a night, eat a healthy diet, and keep your stress levels low.  If you do have employees that you manage or supervise, you may want to consider initiating a sick policy at your work place.  This may include sick days and or other things people can do at the office to prevent the spread of germs. 

4. What if my family member is sick?  While this may be quite challenging to avoid your loved one at home, there are some things you can do to prevent the spread of their infection.  Ask them to wash their hands, keep their tissues contained to trash can (yes people leave them on counters), don't share food, silverware, or drinks with them.  Make sure to take care of yourself by getting plenty of sleep, eating heathy, and keeping low stress levels so your immune system will be tough and strong during that time. 

If I have a cold, do I need antibiotics? 
No. Colds are caused by viruses. You may feel terrible, have body aches, a fever, a really stuffy nose, or a terrible sore throat.  Supportive care to help your body fight off the cold is the best thing for you.  

How do I get rid of this cold?
Most colds last anywhere from 7 days to 3 weeks. Yes, that is right, 3 weeks. The better care you take of yourself during your illness, the faster you will get better.

Here are some things you can do if you feel like you have a cold:  get plenty of rest, do not drink alcohol, keep your stress levels low, take extra vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, and vitamin D, drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet.  

If you feel like you need additional advise of what to do when you're under the weather, you can go see your primary care doctor or call a telemedicine service.  Telemedicine is a form of medical care that uses technology (ie the internet and face-to-face software) to allow you to talk to a physician  and be examined.  Telemedicine  has become an invaluable resource for patients.  You can reach a physician without having to get out of bed, thus making seeing a doctor easier than ever.  Your primary care doctor may offer a telemedicine service or there are other companies that provide telemedicine across the country.  

How do I know if I have the cold or the flu?
If you feel as though your cold is worse than any other cold you have had before, you may in fact have the flu.  A visit to your local physician may be warranted in that case.