What does the term “common cold” mean?
Young children and seniors are especially at risk of the common cold since their immune systems may not be as strong.
A cold virus (i.e. germs) infects the nose and throat causing the common cold and many people catch colds in the fall and winter.
As caregivers, you, or the person in your care, may experience back-to-back common colds throughout the winter, which is not surprising when you consider that there are up to 200 viruses that can cause a cold.
Young children and seniors are especially at risk of the common cold since their immune systems may not be as strong. Read our Elizz article on Immunizations for Older Adults and Caregivers.
Why does the common cold spread?
Germs cold viruses usually spread by contact with other people who have colds by:
- Indirect contact – touching something like a doorknob, phone, TV remote, light switch, or a used tissue that has cold germs on it. Cold-causing germs can remain on surfaces for hours.
- Direct contact – for example: touching hands, or kissing a person carrying a cold virus.
- Through the air – germs spread every time someone coughs or sneezes. Droplets from a sneeze or a cough can travel through the air and make contact with another person.
Common cold facts - did you know?
- People with asthma are at higher risk of complications from respiratory viruses like the common cold.
- Asthma attacks can be triggered by a cold or flu.
- If you or the person in your care has asthma, make sure to take all medications as prescribed.
- The flu shot is especially important for children and seniors who have weaker immune systems, but it’s a good idea for everyone to have their flu shot.
How long will a common cold last?
Cold symptoms such as coughing, headache, runny or congested nose, sneezing, fatigue, sore throat, and fever usually appear two or three days after exposure to a source of infection. Most common colds will clear up within one week, but some may last for as long as two weeks.
Ways to prevent the common cold?
- HANDWASHING is the most important way to reduce the spread of cold viruses:
- Wash after sneezing, coughing, or wiping or touching your nose
- Wash after being in contact with other people, especially anyone who has a cold
- Wash your hands often
- If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Caregivers should lead by example, and encourage the person in your care to use tissues to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, or to direct their cough into their elbow or upper sleeve
- Avoid sharing items until they have been cleaned
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Eat healthy, nutrition-rich foods
- Make time for physical exercise
- Control stress as this can weaken your immune system
Chances are good that either you or the person in your care will get at least one common cold a year. The best thing you can do is to take preventative steps to reduce your chances of exposure to cold viruses and catching the common cold.
See also our Elizz blog article on Caregiver Hand Washing and Infection Control.