The old adage “Coughs and Sneezes Spreads Diseases” dates back to a 1940s public health campaign and still holds true today. Research shows the force of a sneeze can send 100,000 germs a distance of eight metres, writes John Sargeant.
It’s no wonder influenza, norovirus and the common cold spread so easily, so:
• Catch it! Use tissues to catch your cough or sneeze;
• Bin it! Germs can live for several hours, so dispose of your tissues as soon as possible;
• Kill it! Hands can transfer germs to everything you touch, so clean your hands.
Cold and flu symptoms can be similar, but flu appears quickly, affects more than your nose and throat and makes you feel so exhausted that you are too unwell to carry on as normal. The general advice is to rest, sleep, keep warm, drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated and drink hot lemon with honey (not suitable for babies).
Colds will usually last for a few days but you should see your GP if your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks, or if they get suddenly worse, or if your temperature gets very high and you are shivery, or you are finding it hard to breathe or have chest pain.
There’s no cure for the common cold but your pharmacist can guide you, taking into account any medical problems you may have and any regular medication you are on.
You can treat your:
• Temperature, aches or pains with paracetamol or ibuprofen, but be careful as some ‘cold remedies’ already contain these and it can be easy to take more than the recommended dose;
• Blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets, but these may not be suitable if you have certain medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure).
• Sore throat with throat lozenges – can be quite soothing, but many contain a lot of sugar;
• Cough with cough mixtures or lozenges – check with your pharmacist, some may have ingredients that aren’t suitable for you;
• Cold with supplements such, as Vitamin C, or Zinc or Echinacea, or Garlic, but evidence for their efficacy is limited.
Remember some over the counter medicines may not be suitable for children, babies or pregnant women, so always ask your pharmacist for help and advice.
• John Sargeant is chairman of Community Health Derbyshire.