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 Annual 2011

Annual 2011



The Common Cold

Tips to Weather the Season

     You wake up one morning feeling congested, fatigued and complaining of a sore throat. Should you go to work or stay home? And most importantly, is there anything you can do to feel better?
     The winter months herald the holidays and the beginning of cold season. Experts estimate that most adults get two to four colds each year.
     “There are more than 200 viruses that make up the common cold and affect the lining of the nose, sinuses and throat,” says Dr. Randy Bergen of Kaiser Permanente. Bergen works at Kaiser’s Walnut Creek Medical Center and specializes in pediatric infectious diseases and also serves as the clinical lead for Kaiser’s Northern California flu vaccine program. “The seasonal flu is more serious than a cold and is easily transmitted to others which is why doctors recommend that both children and adults get a flu shot each year.”
     Despite the many myths surrounding colds, Bergen says it’s not true that colds are caused by cold weather or that antibiotics can cure the common cold.
     While over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, cough medicines and throat lozenges can reduce the severity of cold symptoms, Bergen also recommends that cold sufferers drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and get a full night’s sleep.
     “There aren’t any products that have been proven to prevent colds, but Airborne (a health formula developed by a Bay Area teacher that supports a person’s immune system through a blend of vitamins and minerals), and the herbal supplement echinacea, may shorten the duration of a cold,” Bergen says. “People are most contagious for the first two days of a cold, and if a child is running a fever, they are clearly contagious and should stay home from school.”
     While a cold can last up to seven days, and a cough can hang on even longer, Bergen says fevers lasting more than three days or fevers that disappear for one or two days and then return require a doctor’s visit.
“A long-lasting fever can be a sign of a sinus infection, ear infection or pneumonia,” Bergen says.
     Kathy Nemanic, a registered nurse and director of operations for Tender Loving Care and Amedisys, a home healthcare company with offices in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, says colds are more prevalent in the winter because people spend more time in enclosed areas where they can be exposed to viruses.
     “One of the main things I impress upon my nursing staff and my own children is the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections,” Nemanic says. “Colds are primarily spread through coughs and sneezes, so when someone has a cold and we unknowingly touch a contaminated surface, we become exposed to the same virus.”
     Yet that doesn’t mean going overboard with hand washing and supplying everyone in your family with hand sanitizer.
     “Just make sure to wash your hands after you’ve touched a shared surface such as a telephone, gym equipment and doorknobs where germs can live for hours,” Nemanic says. “And avoid touching your face since cold viruses enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth.”


■    Ah Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold (Grand Central Publishing, 2010) by Jennifer Ackerman cites research and interviews from cold doctors and also dispels many of the myths surrounding colds.

■    Dr. Alan Greene, an East Bay pediatrician has information on his website: www.drgreene.com/qa/preventing-colds-flus-and-infections and in his book, Raising Baby Green (Jossey-Bass, 2007) on natural cold remedies for children.

■    Pharmaca, an integrative pharmacy with locations in Berkeley and Rockridge, offers free seminars on how to beat colds with herbal remedies and homeopathic medicines. Visit www.pharmaca.com.

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