QUESTION: My children get terrible colds in the winter. Their ages are 9, 13 and 16. What can I do to prevent this? I try to make them wear hats, eat oranges and wash their hands, but they still end up with a lot of snotty noses and coughs. — LaTasha, Lima
Thanks for asking such a great question! In order to answer it, I need to answer another question first, which is, “What causes all of these terrible colds.” Colds are caused by those microscopic germs called viruses. Cold viruses are nasty little things that get into our systems through breathing or by touching someone or something that has the virus on them.
You have mentioned excellent ways to try to prevent colds. You have included both ways to prevent the virus from entering your children’s bodies, as well as ways to boost their immune systems. Washing hands is probably the best way to get the virus off of their bodies. It takes a vigorous wash though, 15 to 30 seconds (this is how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”). Alcohol-based hand gels can also work for most viruses.
You mentioned hats. If our body temperature is lowered after exposure to a virus, we may be more likely to get a cold from it, so coats and hats are a good idea as well.
Other ways to boost their immune response include adequate sleep, appropriate diet and activity. It is surprising, but sleep, proper foods (oranges included!), and activity work better than tablets — such as Vitamin C or Zinc — at boosting your immune system and preventing a cold.
Of course there is no way to prevent all colds, but with aggressive hand washing and proper sleep and diet, many colds can be prevented. If not, make sure to obtain proper medical care when appropriate. A bad cough, fever and muscle aches may mean something much more dangerous than a cold. The flu virus can cause these symptoms. It needs to be treated early to prevent serious illness. Get the flu shot to prevent this one.
I hope this helps answer your question.
Darrel Hotmire, D.O., ACOFP