Personal Hygiene and Head Colds

Every year millions of people suffer from a common head cold. Normally these viral infections are short lived, leaving no long-term effects, but in some cases, especially in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, it can develop into much more serious bronchitis and dehydration.

A head cold can effect any person of any age though is more common in children as their hygiene is often not as high a standard as an adults and because their immune system may not be fully developed.

The cold virus is spread by the release of tiny droplets of nasal or oral secretions, expelled by the sufferer. If left uncovered, the droplets can exit the nose or mouth and land on any surface or directly onto other people who may inhale it. The most common spread of the cold virus is by contamination from fingers and objects carrying the virus.

Protecting Yourself

If you haven’t currently got a cold but those around you have, there are certain measures that can be undertaken to help reduce the likelihood of developing one:

  • Do not share cutlery, make-up or drinking vessels with anyone. The virus can live for days on a suitable surface and is waiting to be passed on to the next pair of hands.
  • Always wash hands before eating or applying make-up to prevent the spread of any germs on the hands.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can irritate the airways causing an increased chance of cultivating a cold.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and consume a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to enable a strong immune system.
  • Avoid going in and out between the cold and places of constant central heating; again the airways can become dried out and irritated.
  • Reduce or manage stress effectively, high levels of stress can increase your susceptibility of developing an illness.

Preventing the Spread of Infection

If you are suffering from a cold, follow these basic guidelines to help reduce the spread of infection; remember, those with reduced immunity and the elderly can suffer much worse illnesses that develop from a common cold.

  • Always use single use disposable tissues for coughing and sneezing into, instead of a reusable handkerchief, and dispose of properly.
  • Do not leave tissues in pockets or laying around on communal surfaces.
  • Do not share tooth brushes with anyone.
  • Avoid visiting patients in hospital if you are suffering from a bad cold as the patients may develop more serious illnesses from contact with you.
  • Cover the nose and mouth fully with a tissue when coughing, sneezing or blowing the nose and wash hands afterwards.
  • Stop smoking as this can irritate airways and make a small cough much worse.
  • If you inadvertently sneeze or cough whilst on the telephone, clean the surface as per manufacturer’s instruction to avoid contamination.
  • Avoid travelling on the underground rail system, buses and aeroplanes, especially during peak times as the air conditioning and close proximity of others will help increase the spread of germs.

Many people suffer from head colds and most recover without problem, however many people could avoid developing the condition or spreading of it by maintaining a few simple hygiene principles.

Hand washing and covering the nose and mouth whilst coughing and sneezing are the easiest ways of reducing the spread of infection.

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