Colds come from people, not the weather

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Put on your coat -- you'll catch your death of cold!"

Sorry, despite what your mother told you, you won't catch a cold by having wet feet, going out in the rain or being exposed to cold air, according to Children's Hospital in Omaha.

In fact, experts say, children you live on the equator get colds just like those who live in northern latitudes.

The truth is, they say, that who get colds from other people, specifically through contact with nasal discharge.

And, because they're caused by up to 150 viruses, it's nearly impossible to build up an immunity to all of them.

If you get one, plan on having it for about three weeks.

First, it spreads within the nose, increasing nasal secretions. By the second or third day, expect nasal stuffiness, throat irritation and sneezing.

The runny nose reaches its maximum within two to seven days, and may continue for up to two more weeks.

Other symptoms may include headaches, coughs, low-grade fevers, chills, burning eyes, burning nasal membranes, muscle aches and loss of appetite.

If you or your child feel a cold coming on, stay home, or keep your child home for a day or two to limit the spread of the virus.

While nagging about "put on your coat!" may not help, other reminders may. They include frequent hand-washing, both at home and at work or school, and using tissues around the nose rather than fingers.

And, as usual, drink plenty of fluids, get as much rest as possible, and use a vaporizer or steamer to help thin secretions and relieve hoarseness or laryngitis.

Children should never be given aspirin because of the danger of developing Reye's syndrome, but cold symptoms can be treated with ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

And don't go overboard with cold medications.

"Parents need to understand that over-the-counter cold and cough medications do not make your child healthy faster, nor do they cure your child of illness," said Dr. Lars Vanderbur, a Children's Physicians pediatrician. "At best, they make your child feel better, but in many instances, parents detect no improvements in symptoms. If you don't notice a benefit, stop using the cold and cough medication."

And, if a child develops a red throat, pus-like drainage, a fever lasting longer than three days, lingering hoarseness, difficulty breathing or a prolonged cough or wheezing, a doctor should be consulted.

More information is available at the Children's Hospital Web site, http://www.chsomaha.org and clicking "Health Information" then "Pediatric Hints."

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