Time for Colds and The Flu: What Can You & Your Family Do?

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 03:14 pm

All the bugs and bacteria that plague human kind are essentially trapped indoors over the cold winter months: windows seldom get opened and cars are sealed shut with the heat on, schools harbor a variety of illnesses and are also sealed shut with temperatures way too high. It’s no wonder that this is a perfect season to share whatever cold or Flu with your closest neighbor. Young children, especially, are not the poster kids for hygiene, and touching and tasting the environment gives infants and toddlers a window on the world. Illnesses that get started in your child can spread rapidly to all members of the family.

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickViral infections and Flu are composed of minute particles that are just waiting for an opportunity to invade the next host. The easiest way to gain entry to the human body is through the mucous membranes that we all have – moist skin that you seldom think about; inside your nose, throat, lining your eyeballs, etc. Once they gain entry they invade normal cells and begin to replicate, reproducing themselves and in so doing, alter or kill the host cells. Whichever cells are involved and how your body reacts to the invasion will dictate the symptoms that you will experience. Most invasions are short lived and most for the purposes of this post are in the respiratory tract, upper (nose and throat) and lower (trachea and lungs).

How to cure a “cold” has been a mystery for scientists forever, but since they are short lived and generally do not produce major problems it has never been worth the resources to attempt multiple and complicated testing to nail down a cure. So viral colds live on and disrupt many lifestyles along the way. The favorite medicines in the world to attempt to cure just about anything are antibiotics, but to do so will not only have no effect on the cold but can cause problems of their own – resistances by bacteria to the antibiotic and reactions to that medicine. So we are left with “taking care” of the cold with various simple measures. Over the counter cold medicines have been shown to have very little effect on the symptoms or length of a cold and also have unwanted side effects.

How to prevent a cold or Flu, or viral illness from spreading is the main issue. Since these particles gain entry through mucus membranes, and are usually carried to that area by contact with your own colonized hands, it is very important to wash hands regularly and completely. Too often this is a cursory act of applying soap and washing it off, but scrubbing the hands for about 20 seconds (enough time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) is usually necessary to do an adequate job. Avoid touching your face as most mucus membranes are in that area, especially your eyes. Of course the group that is most important (children) is not usually compliant with these issues, so you must teach this at home. Spread can also occur by droplets pushed into the air by coughing and sneezing and then transferred to others on your hands. Sneeze into the inside of your elbow and avoid spreading droplets into the air around you.

Unfortunately simple apparent cures, taking extra vitamins, etc. have been shown to have very little if any effect on a cold.

So, bear with it, it will be over soon, and do your best not to share it with anyone. And remember to get Flu immunization for your entire family (age six months and older) as soon as it comes out on the market, and since some Flu seasons can last into April get that Flu vaccine even in early March if you missed it at the end of last year.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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