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Steer clear when colds are near

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Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011 5:00 am

As winter settles in and colleagues call in sick, one thing is clear: cold season is upon us. But knowledge is power, and a little knowledge can go a long way toward preventing illness or curbing its length and severity.

“It does tend to be more prevalent in the winter, although it’s hard to say why that is,” said Tammy Beahm, an infection prevention nurse at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City. “There are just so many viruses circulating.”

For Beahm, the key is prevention, though she really has nothing new to offer on that front. Why? Because the same tried and true advice physicians have been giving for decades is still the best advice today.

“Try to avoid other people who are sick,” Beahm said. “Wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough. Use the inside of your elbow to cover your sneeze, not your hand, and make sure your face is tight against it so no germs can escape.”

But try as we might, eventually everyone catches a cold or two. At that point, Beahm said there are several steps to take.

“There is symptomatic treatment, such as lozenges or ice chips to soothe your throat,” she said. “You can use a vaporizer, take over-the-counter medicine to deal with congestion. Most importantly, get plenty of fluids and rest. And stay home, otherwise you’ll just spread it.”

Most people consider colds as little more than a nuisance, a minor annoyance that lasts a few days and is quickly forgotten. But that is not always the case.

“They can lead to more serious problems, though I would say that is very rare,” Beahm said. “Mostly what you’re talking about with a cold is a sore throat, a cough and a runny nose. But in the geriatric population it could possibly lead to pneumonia.”

It is important, then, to know the difference between when a cold is just a cold and when it may be something more.

“If you are running a fever higher than 100.4,” Beahm said. “If your symptoms last longer than 10 days. In those cases, I would say you should seek your physician’s care.”

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or

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