Medical Articles

The Common Cold - Health Keys To Avoiding Them

It's not called the common cold for nothing. Americans get an estimated one billion of these mild-but-miserable infections each year, due to invasion by any of 200 known respiratory viruses.

This time of year, sniffles, sneezes, and coughs are positively everywhere. But before you give in and start stockpiling tissues and chicken soup, try a few simple tricks to help you and your family avoid those dreaded colds altogether.

Colds are spread by breathing in virus-containing droplets that an infected person has sneezed or coughed into the atmosphere. So one sure way to get infected is if someone sneezes or coughs directly on you.

Unfortunately, you can also catch a cold by handling something an infected person has touched and then rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth. In fact, most colds are caught this way. Careful hand washing with antibacterial soap is important to avid picking up the virus on your hands.

Insist that cold sufferers in your house wash their hands frequently--especially before contact with food or other people. Also, using disinfectants on surfaces such a doorknobs, telephones, and countertops is another way to avoid viral encounters.

You can also make life more difficult for invading germs by creating a hostile environment for them. Viruses thrive in dry conditions, so it's important to drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day, especially when you've got a cold. Staying hydrated helps thin mucus and deliver nutrients in the body. Increase your fluid intake with vitamin C-rich juices and juicy fruits such as melons.

Chicken soup, a favorite healing food from your childhood, provides a steamy bowl of liquid comfort that can help keep you hydrated. Beyond that, research suggests that it contains compounds that reduce respiratory inflammation. Homemade chicken soup appears to be more effective than canned varieties; some speculate that the chicken bones, which simmer on the stove before the meat is stripped from them, may impart healing properties. Additionally, canned soups are often loaded with salt.

If you should get a cold, in addition to all of the above, a good way to fight a cold is with fire. Hot, pungent foods such as horseradish, curry, and spicy, hot peppers, such as jalapenos and chili peppers may be just as effective as over-the-counter remedies in combating common cold symptoms like sinus and chest congestion.

Spicy foods contain a compound called capsaicin, a mucus-moving agent, fiery foods work by releasing waves of watery fluids, which thin out and move the lung's secretions away from air passages, which helps op en stuffed-up noses. Avoid heavy dairy products like milk, which can worsen congestion.


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