The best way to prevent a cold and what to do if you fail

Baby granddaughter has a cold for Christmas

Such a sad little face. That’s because my sweet little granddaughter caught a cold for Christmas and didn’t feel well. I’m sure her grandparents are now at risk of also getting colds because we gave her lots and lots of hugs and baby kisses. 

How to prevent a cold

If you’re trying not to catch a cold, Dr. Holmstrom, a family practice doctor and the medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, says the best advice is to limit your exposure to — and even avoid — others who have a cold. Sorry, but when it comes to my granddaughter, there’s no way I could have done either. 

It’s still good advice. And here’s some more from Dr. Holmstrom.

“Staying away from public places and avoiding “sneezers” and “coughers” will go a long way in protecting you from catching a cold. Although it sounds simple enough, we all know this isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

The most practical and effective way to lessen your chances of catching a cold is to wash your hands numerous times throughout the day. Use warm, soapy water for 30 to 60 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently during the day especially when you have been out in public touching doors, handrails, etc.

Also (again, this is hard to do) try and limit touching your face, mouth, and nose with your hands during cold season as the viral particles that cause a cold accumulate on your hands. Placing them on your face facilitates exposure.”

What to do if you still get a cold 

“If you do get a cold, remember they are caused by viruses that run their own course. Rest and hydration along with over the counter remedies (used after checking with your doctor) such as acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), cough suppressants, antihistamines (for runny noses) and salt water gargles (for sore throats) can lessen symptoms. But remember, there is no one, magic silver bullet that will lessen the duration or treat all the symptoms of a cold.

 While a cold is common, you should see your doctor if you have trouble breathing, notice blood when you cough, have fevers that do not come down with medication or have symptoms that last more than 10 days. Children — especially those less than 3 months of age — require special attention and it makes sense to call their doctor at the start of symptoms.”

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.