Cold season: the time of year when one cough can mean disaster for an entire office, classroom or household. University of Arizona scientists recently found that it takes only four hours for common work surfaces, such as coffeepot handles, to show traces of the infectious virus when an employee comes to work with a cold.

It’s no surprise that this fast-moving virus is called the common cold. In fact, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than one billion “common” colds hit the United States each year.  That is why it is imperative to take extra precautions during cold season to keep yourself from succumbing to those dreaded symptoms. Try to prevent colds by following these easy steps below:

  1. Wash Frequently: A little soap and warm water should always be the first defense against the miserable sore throat and runny nose of a common cold. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing your hands often with soap of water for 20 seconds to help prevent the spread of germs during cold season. An easy way to ensure you are washing for the full 20-second duration is to hum to yourself the first verse of “Mary had a Little Lamb” twice.
  2. Sanitize Surfaces: Antibacterial wipes are another essential cold season weapon, allowing users to wipe down commonly touched items such as gas pumps, gym equipment, commonly used desk areas and more.  Disinfecting a surrounding environment and cleaning commonly touched surfaces diminishes the possibility of catching the cold virus, as the virus can live outside of a body and on a surface for about 24 hours.
  3. Eat a Protein-Rich Diet: Douglas Kalman, PhD, RD, and director of nutrition and applied clinical trials at Miami Research associates recommends stocking up on protein, as that can help keep the immune system running strong. Unfortunately, stocking up on orange juice and Vitamin C won’t do the trick. The National Health Society recently reported that several doctors suggest there is no evidence linking Vitamin C to the prevention of colds.  However, a daily dose of vitamin C can slightly reduce the length and severity of the common cold, according to this same research.
  4. Avoid the Sick: Most colds tend to disappear in a few days, or, about a week. However, anyone with a cold is most contagious between day two and day three of contracting the cold virus.  If you are not sick, you should stay away from people who show signs of a cold. Do so by avoiding close contact and moving away from people who may be coughing or sneezing—their cough and spray zones can affect you.

If you’ve already caught the common cold, here are a few tips to speed recovery:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get lots of rests
  • Take an over-the-counter medicine to help ease your symptoms
  • STAY AT HOME – do not risk the health of your coworkers, family, or friends by venturing outside of the house.

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