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Reduce the Spread of "The Common Cold"

by Beth Hering and Michael Organ
The Challenge

On average, you infect four friends, co-workers, or children per year with the common cold. The infections you pass on cause obstruction of nasal breathing, swelling of the sinus membranes, nasal discharge, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, and fever. These colds can sometimes lead to more serious complications including secondary bacterial infections of the middle ear and sinus. Some of the common cold viruses that produce mild infections in adults can precipitate severe lower respiratory infections in young children.

The common cold is a leading cause of doctor visits, school absenteeism, and job absenteeism. Most adults catch between 2 and 4 colds per year. Younger children attending daycare or school suffer most, typically catching between 6 and 10 colds annually.

Infection rates don't have to be that high. With some easy changes, you could infect fewer people and catch fewer colds yourself.

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  • During the first 2 to 3 days (the most contagious stage of the common cold), avoid close contact with others. For instance, avoid taking contagious children to play areas where they could infect other kids.
  • Teach your children healthy habits that can help them from spreading the common cold. Instruct them to cough or sneeze into their elbow rather than their hand (hands touch more surfaces), to wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), and to throw used tissues into the garbage can every time they finish blowing their nose.
  • The proper technique for effective hand washing may surprise you: Check out the steps to best wash your hands, according to the Center for Disease Control.
  • When you or a family member has a cold, travel with a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  To be effective, the bottle should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Send e-mail messages to teachers at your local elementary school guiding them to Clorox's "Clean up the Classroom" site. There, they can download activities, brochures, and posters about the common cold. They also can sign up for free seasonal newsletters providing special offers and new resources on stopping the spread of the common cold in classrooms.
  • Contact local elementary school teachers to see if they would like help in cleaning classrooms. Prime germ areas that are often neglected include computer keyboards, doorknobs, pencil sharpeners, toys, art supplies, and recess/gym equipment such as jump ropes and balls.
  • Talk with school administrators about installing an instant hand-sanitizing dispenser at the entrance to the cafeteria for all students to use on their way into and out of the lunch room.

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