Odds are you will catch or already have had a cold this season. The average American gets two to four a year, according the Mayo Clinic. When the dreaded runny nose and scratchy throat strikes you, will you know what to do to recover quickly and keep from spreading your germs? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about things to do and not to do when you are sick or to avoid getting ill.
Question: How can I stay healthy when everyone else is getting sick?
Answer: Your best defense against getting sick with a cold or flu is to have healthy habits and avoid germs. Remember to stay well hydrated, rest, manage stress and eat nutritious food. Wash your hands frequently and encourage others you know to do the same. Make sure you are washing your hands long enough by singing “Happy Birthday” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice through. Cleaning desk surfaces at work, school or home with disinfectant may help eliminate germs. Rhinoviruses that cause colds can survive up to three hours on some surfaces, according to the National Institutes of Health. Ask your doctor about getting a flu vaccination.
Question: Should I go to work or school when I am sick?
Answer: Stay home to feel better faster and avoid spreading germs to others. If you must go out in public, do all you can to avoid spreading your germs. Avoid close contact and wash your hands frequently. Cough or sneeze into your arm and not into your hand. Bacteria and viruses will quickly die in the fabric of your clothes but will live for hours in the warmth and oils of your hands. Try not to touch your eyes, mouth and nose.
Question: How long am I contagious?
Answer: How long a person with a cold is contagious is not known for certain. Scientists’ best guess is that a person becomes contagious about two to three days before developing symptoms of a cold. A person can be contagious until he/she no longer shows any symptoms or about two weeks. You are most contagious when your symptoms are at their worst, between days 2-4, and less contagious as you improve.
Question: Should I exercise when I am sick?
Answer: Most experts recommend that if your symptoms are above the neck and you have no fever, exercise is probably okay but postpone intensive workouts until a few days after symptoms have cleared up. Listening to your body is your best guide. If you feel terrible, stop your workout and rest instead.
Question: How can I keep from spreading my germs?
Answer: Stay home if you are sick, wash your hands frequently and cough into your sleeve rather than your hands. If you must go out into public, avoid close contact with others.
Question: How can I get better faster?
Answer: Bottom line is colds and flu must run their course but rest, plenty of fluids, aspirin or acetaminophen for fevers and headaches, along with over-the-counter medications, can help relieve symptoms while you recover.
Question: When should I call the doctor?
Answer: Most people with colds or flu will recover on their own. You don’t have to see a doctor unless you develop complications, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections or pneumonia. Sometimes a cold will aggravate existing conditions, such as asthma. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection as a complication of the cold or flu. See a doctor if you aren’t getting any better after a week, or your symptoms worsen.