Q. Why do I get a cold every year is the fall and winter months?

A. Most adults get between 2-4 colds a year while children usually get between 6-10 colds a year.  Since cold or inconsistent weather is typical of fall and winter, people are more likely to spend time indoors.  While indoors, they have more close contact with others, and are more vulnerable to cold viruses.  The changes in humidity also make it easier to catch a cold because viruses survive better in low humidity.  When the humidity is low the lining of your nose dries out which makes it more susceptible to infection.  Many children pick up more colds during this time of year because schools start and they are in closer contact with other children. 

Q. What exactly causes a cold?

A. There are more than 200 different types of viruses that can cause the common cold.  These viruses can be picked up in an unlimited number of ways.  They can come from direct or indirect contact with someone who is carrying a virus.  Usually the common cold symptoms begin around 2-3 days after picking up the virus.

Q. How can I prevent a cold?

A. Washing your hands is the best way to prevent a cold.  Cold germs enter the body most often by being on the hands and then the hands coming into contact with the nose, mouth or eyes.  Washing hands with soap and water or using an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer throughout the day will help prevent most cold viruses from being transmitted. 

Many people think that taking vitamin C will prevent a cold or relieve its symptoms, but they should take it with care.  The vitamin may help a little bit by reducing the severity of cold symptoms, but large amounts can cause severe diarrhea. 

Q. How can I get rid of a cold if I become infected?

A. There isn’t a cure for the common cold, but there is relief from its symptoms.  Getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids are the best things you can do to make your body feel better.  There are also throat sprays and lozenges for a sore throat and petroleum jelly for a raw nose.  

Q. Can a cold turn into anything more serious?

A. Colds can develop into bacterial infections, especially in the sinuses and middle ear.  If it does turn into a bacterial infection it will have to be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider.  If you have a high fever, extremely swollen glands, severe sinus pain and excess mucus you should visit your healthcare provider to determine if it is anything more serious.