Growing up, your mother or grandmother probably warned you that you would catch a cold if you went outside during the winter without a coat or hat. You may have even used the same warning with your own children. Was your grandmother correct? Can you catch a cold from being cold? This article dispels common myths about how we catch colds and outlines steps that you can take to alleviate common cold symptoms, and start feeling better quickly.
How Do You Catch a Cold?
Before we can answer the question, “Can you catch a cold from being cold?” we must first understand the basic biology behind how we catch colds. The common cold is a viral respiratory infection. Although rhinoviruses are usually the cause of common cold symptoms, colds can also be caused by human parainfluenza viruses, human coronaviruses, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, and human metapneumovirus. So, how can you catch a cold? In order to catch a cold, you must be exposed to one of the above viruses.
How Can You Catch a Cold at Work?
Adults catch an average of two to three colds a year. Individuals who work in offices or in other places or situations where there is frequent contact with large numbers of people or where multiple people touch the same objects are at the highest risk for catching colds. Cold viruses are easily spread through the air or close contact with an infected individual. You can also become infected when you touch a contaminated object and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
How Do You Catch a Cold at School?
Children in school or day care settings typically catch more colds than adults. Children do not always practice good hand hygiene, and toys and other frequently touched objects are not always disinfected, which makes schools and day care facilities hotbeds of viral activity.
Recognizing Common Cold Symptoms vs. Flu Symptoms
It can be difficult to tell a cold from the flu because the symptoms are very similar, and colds are most common during the winter and spring, which is also when the influenza virus is most prevalent. The onset of a cold is typically gradual and characterized by sneezing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. The flu, on the other hand, typically has an abrupt onset and is characterized by extreme fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, but sometimes those symptoms occur with colds as well. If your symptoms are more severe than usual or your symptoms last longer than 10 days, contact your doctor right away.
Can You Catch a Cold From Being Cold?
The only thing that will cause you to catch a cold is coming into contact with the virus. However, these is some research suggesting that being cold may weaken the immune system. So, while you cannot catch a cold without coming into contact with the cold virus, being cold might make you more susceptible to a cold if you encounter the virus.
How to Protect Yourself from the Cold Virus
The best defense against the common cold is good hand hygiene. You should wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after being around someone who is ill, being in public, or coming into contact with frequently touched objects. To ensure you remove all of the bacteria from your hands, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Other steps that you can take to reduce your chances of catching a cold would be to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands and to limit your contact with individuals who are sick.
How You Can Help Protect Others If You Are Sick
If you are sick, you should stay home and limit your contact with others to as little as possible. If you have to cough or sneeze, move away from other people. You should also use a tissue or your elbow to cover your nose and mouth. Be sure to wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.
How to Alleviate Cold Symptoms
Time is the only cure for the common cold, but there are things you can do to decrease the intensity of your symptoms. You should try to rest as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Various over-the-counter remedies will not make your cold go away, but they may help alleviate your symptoms. Since colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not help. In fact, taking antibiotics unnecessarily can make them less effective in treating bacterial infections.
Most colds will resolve on their own in a week to 10 days. If your symptoms persist or worsen, you should see your health care provider to determine if your symptoms are due to something other than a cold.
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