Rain and the Common Cold!

I hear it all the time, “Doc, I was out in the rain yesterday and caught a cold”.

raincold.jpgIts probably one of the oldest misconceptions about the common cold and one of the hardest for people to stop believing; its like the default setting on the computer. When I ask why don’t we get sick after bathing or swimming, the story gets complicated “…well Doc, is not all water, only rainwater” or “is only when you get wet in your clothes”.

We live in an age where evidence and reason want to rule, but our collective consciousness cannot seem to let go of this “rain = cold” myth.

The truth is the common cold or ‘flu’ (short for influenza) is caused by a virus, an extremely small organism that lives inside living cells. We get infected with these cold-causing viruses when people, already infected, expel them into the air or onto surfaces by sneezing, coughing or spitting without concern for their neighbours.

We transfer these viruses into our bodies either directly when we kiss infected persons, when they sneeze and cough on us; or from touching contaminated surfaces then rubbing our eyes; picking our noses; biting our pens; licking our fingers and so on.

Cold symptoms develop seven to ten days later – the stuffy, runny nose, the red eyes, fever and head-ache, coughing and sneezing and feeling generally rotten. The whole thing usually lasts a week to ten days during which we go about infecting others.

Lots of people like to play hero and show up for work or school at the height of their cold, sneezing and coughing on everyone. So instead of one person being out sick, they infect the whole office or class and after a week everyone is miserable. Managers and teachers should insist: No work until you are better! And even then, tend to your own germs.

After about two days we start feeling really bad and big men start acting like babies. We’ve tried Vitamin C, E and the whole alphabet to Zinc; Echinacea, Ginseng, Cerasee, Lime leaf, ‘Sinkle bible’ and rum and still feel ‘mash up’. Then we start hunting for the left-over antibiotics and the doctor’s cell number in the middle of the night.

Let me clear up a few things here… Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea and the like, will not cure your cold. They won’t even shorten it. Antibiotics do not treat viruses; they treat bacteria, so no help there.

The best you can hope for is to manage the symptoms and strengthen your immune system with diet, exercise, rest and vitamins before the next cold season starts. The stronger the immune system the better it fights off viruses and all you may notice is that you have colds much less often and they don’t last as long if you do get caught.

Of course paying attention to basic hygiene, especially hand washing is crucial. Everyone knows it is common courtesy to cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; keeping your germs to yourself. Nowadays alcohol-based hand sanitizers are readily available and do a great job in killing viruses and bacteria on contact.

Bottom line though: colds and ‘flu’s are spread by people and the colder and wetter the weather, the more people are forced together in buses, classrooms, homes and offices and therefore the greater the opportunity for the virus to spread. Feel free to frolic in the rain.

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