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Monday, October 18, 2021

Student guide to preventing the common cold

The weather has gotten colder, classes are getting busier and it’s the time of year when it feels like every other person is sneezing and coughing all over you. Cold season is upon Davis once again, and with a few preventative measures, it’s possible to make it through without a single sneeze.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s web site (CDC), symptoms of the common cold include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and coughing. The common cold generally lasts 10 days and there is nothing that can make it go away faster.

Preventing a cold is difficult, as students are exposed nearly everywhere from grocery stores to class. There is no shot or medication that will prevent the common cold, so avoiding it is a matter of changing your behavior.

Maureen Greenhagen, the patient care services manager at the UC Davis Student Health and Wellness Center, recommends washing your hands frequently as a method to prevent the spread of germs.

“Washing hands is by far the number one way to prevent a cold,” Greenhagen said. “It is also important to not share glasses or utensils, and to get plenty of sleep. Be well-rested and well-fed, and have an adequate fluid intake.”

Khanhtram, a Rite Aid pharmacist, agrees that washing your hands is crucial and suggests taking vitamin supplements before catching the cold.

“[Make sure you] wash your hands to prevent the spread of the cold, and take lots of vitamin C. Be sure to take vitamin C or products like Airborne early. If you have a cold already, it won’t help,” she said.

However, even by taking preventative measures it is still possible to get sick.

“You can practice all of these healthy habits, and still get a cold,” Greenhagen said.

If preventative measures fail to work, it is important to prevent spreading the cold to anyone else. The CDC recommends taking over-the-counter decongestants to relieve symptoms, while still practicing good hygiene.

Greenhagen emphasized the importance of being well rested.

“The best thing is to get plenty of rest as soon as you feel [a cold] coming. Stay hydrated, take Tylenol and Advil and use saline gargles to relieve sore throats,” she said.

The CDC suggests different methods for relieving symptoms. Using clean humidifiers can help sore throats and coughs. A moist cloth placed over the nose and forehead can help relieve sinus pressure, or when placed over an ear, can reduce ear pain. Drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough rest are both at the top of all symptom relief lists.

Michelle Ahronovitz, a sophomore psychology major, recently fell ill and agreed that getting enough sleep is crucial.

“I never get enough sleep, so that’s probably why I have colds for way longer than I should,” she said. “When I do get sick I take lots of Sudafed, and try to eat soup or tea, or both.”

“It’s impossible to avoid getting a cold around school, though,” Ahronovitz said. “I’m in a 500-person lecture hall, and the person before me could have sneezed everywhere.”

Aside from practicing proper hygiene and sleeping well, another option to prevent sickness is getting a flu vaccination. The CDC recommends that vaccinations begin in September and go through January.

“In Davis, get vaccinated anywhere from mid-August to October,” Khanhtram said.

The UC Davis Student Health and Wellness Center also provides flu vaccination clinics. According to the Student Health web site, the next flu vaccination clinic is today from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Griffin Lounge. No appointment is necessary and the injectable vaccine will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If the vaccine is not an option for students, Greenhagen continues to stress practicing proper hygiene.

“If you’re sick, make sure you cough or sneeze into your elbow and not your hands,” she said. “And protect people around you by always washing your hands.”

The CDC recommends regularly washing your hands with warm, soapy water for about 15 seconds. If water is not available, you should wash with alcohol-based products made for washing hands.

To learn more information about the common cold and its prevention, students can visit the Student Health and Wellness Center’s web site or the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov. For more self help information, students can call the advice nurse at the Wellness Center at 752-9649 during normal hours of operation.

JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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