One of the most common presentations at our practices during the Winter months is patients with coughs and colds. Year on year, people present with runny noses, aches and pains, coughs, temperatures, and the hope that we can cure them of their Winter ailments. For most people, it’s just a matter of letting nature take its course, but why do we keep getting them, and what can we do to stop it?
Common colds are almost exclusively due to the rhinovirus. Recent studies suggest that there are over 200 variations of this virus, and it is quite normal for children to get up to 6 colds per year. It is a combination of the sheer number of cold viruses, as well as their ease of spread, that makes them so contagious.
The most common way we catch a cold is through droplet spread; coughing or sneezing. The virus, however, can last on surfaces for up to 24hr. Therefore, a key measure in reducing the chances of catching a cold is by not touching your face. It is almost impossible not to come in to contact with the virus on your hands, but you can prevent it from getting in to your body. Other ways to prevent getting winter illnesses include; washing your hands regularly, the use of hand sanitiser, and if you are immunosuppressed, or suffer with a chronic disease, making sure you have a flu vaccination.
It is only a small proportion of people that truly have a weak or inefficient immune system. For those people, we would recommend seeing a doctor to look at other causes and treatments. Therefore, overall for the majority of people, the NHS adage of “Catch it, Bin it, Kill It”, really does make sense.