washing hands

DREW HERMAN/Kodiak Daily Mirror Washing your hands is the best way to prevent spreading the common cold.

There is an unexplained medical phenomenon unique to Kodiak which we all have experienced. It is called the “Kodiak crud” and seems to be the most tenacious, long-lasting cold we have ever had.

Most people contract it shortly after moving here, and then proceed to have yearly bouts with it. Currently, I have the crud for the third time this year, and it is persistent. The symptoms usually consist of runny nose, cough, body aches and malaise, low-grade fever, eye redness and discharge, and sore throat or hoarseness.

I have asked many physicians on Kodiak what they think of the crud. They believe it is a type of upper respiratory infection, or URI, also known as the “common cold,” and is caused by a virus.

The most common illness in the United States is the common cold, and adults can expect two to three episodes a year, while preschool-aged children usually have five to seven colds a year. Over 200 different viruses are known to cause cold symptoms. Colds usually last seven to 10 days and resolve without any intervention. Getting enough sleep can decrease your chances of getting a cold, and drinking a lot of fluids is helpful once you have a cold to make secretions easier to clear.

People have tried different remedies, and studies have shown that some remedies may shorten a cold’s duration. Zinc syrup or lozenges may be helpful, but some formulations carry a risk of losing one’s sense of smell and can cause nausea and a bad taste. Contrary to popular belief, vitamin C has not been proven to help in preventing or shortening the duration of a cold. Symptomatic remedies like acetaminophen, NSAIDs, cough suppressants, antihistamines, decongestants or humidified air/nasal saline spray can help you feel better, but will not change the duration of your cold.

The common cold is spread through hand contact, small-particle droplets or large-particle droplets. Viruses can remain viable on skin for up to two hours. Droplet transmission is very common from airborne particles released through sneezing or coughing. Fomites are larger droplets containing living viruses, which can survive on surfaces for several hours. Rubbing your eyes or nose with unwashed hands can increase the transmission rate. Saliva usually does not spread cold viruses.

The best way to keep from spreading colds is hand washing and prevention of droplet and secretion contamination of skin and surfaces. Peak viral shedding usually occurs on the second and third day of the illness, but can persist for up to two weeks. People usually contract a cold 24 to 72 hours after exposure to the virus. It is possible to have the same cold twice, because viruses have high molecular variability, which allows for incomplete cross-protection with the immunity generated at the first illness.

You should consider seeking medical attention if a cold is persisting longer than 10 days, if you have persistent ear pain, severe sinus pain, or if you have lower respiratory tract symptoms as in bronchitis, pneumonia or worsening asthma.

Having a cold can be frustrating due to loss of productivity and missed work, school or other activities. A useful lesson I am learning when I am sick is to stop and be thankful for my abilities, and the strength and energy I usually have each day that I am not sick. Being sick helps me to appreciate all the work that others do, and to realize that the world does not revolve around me alone, and that I am not invincible. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

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