Allergy Alert: Preventing a Cold or Flu

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It's that time again - to hear the familiar coughing, sneezing and other symptoms of the common cold lurking out there this fall! How are colds spread? Well they grow mainly in the nose where they increase in number. During the first 2-4 days (when germs are most likely to spread) they are found in the in nasal secretions.

The common cold virus is most easily spread on contaminated fingers and hands after an infected individual "touches" or rubs their nose, eyes and/or various objects and surfaces.

A recent review of thousands of patients studied was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. These studies looked at if you would receive benefit from taking daily Vitamin C (about 200mg/day). Those who took daily Vitamin C did not see a reduction in suffering.

However, those individuals who were "highly stressed" (for example, marathon runners) had about a 50 percent reduction in the number of days they suffered with a cold.

Here are some avoidance strategies:

1. Don't forget to wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching various objects, surfaces or another person's hands (it physically helps to remove cold viruses).

2. Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes and nose.

3. Avoid directly facing an individual who is coughing and sneezing.

3. Know that not all germicidal lotions will adequately kill cold viruses.

4. Use liquid hand sanitizers frequently, especially when hand washing is not possible.

5. Limit your exposure (even brief contact) to those "sufferers", especially during the first several days of their cold symptoms.

6. Stay home when you are "infected" with a cold virus.

7. Indoor air purification may assist in reducing exposure and/or transmission of to airborne cold viruses, at least in some clinical studies.

8 . Getting adequate rest and sleep, as well as a balanced diet is a good first step in keeping your immune system from getting overly stressed and thus will be better prepared to fight off illnesses such as flu and colds.

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine.He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.