Mind your manners – Metro US

Mind your manners

Etiquette can help limit spread of colds

The cold season is well underway in the GTA.

“An average person is much more likely to get the common cold than get the flu,” says Dr. David Kaplan, chief family physician at North York General Hospital. “If you are properly immunized for the flu, you may get it once in a few years. But chances are you will probably get a cold at least twice a year.”

At this time of year, doctors in town see a spike in the number of patients coming in with cold-like symptoms. The season runs from early fall to April.

“You’d be surprised how many people still don’t cover their mouth. They just let it rip,” says Louise Fox, an owner of Toronto-based Etiquette Ladies.

Fox says rules of etiquette frown heavily upon introducing airborne viruses into the environment.

Germs in general scare Sarah Kahn, who travels on the subway every day to get to school. Kahn is generally wary of touching any surface that may be considered unclean — faucets, door handles, and the surfaces in the subway — and she should be, as they all serve as “vectors for illness.”

Viruses resting innocuously on external surfaces can be transmitted to anyone who touches them. Luckily, skin is an effective barrier against transmission.

The real danger emerges when the hand comes in contact with your nose, eyes or mouth.

“People should cover their mouths, especially after they sneeze or cough,” says Kahn, who carries hand sanitizer in her purse. “I just think I am touching someone else’s mucus and that grosses me out.”

Even that might not help you — you’re going to have to breathe at some point. And depending on which of the 100 cold viruses the sneezer has, the virus may survive anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, Kaplan says.

After surface transmission, airborne transmission is the second most common way of spreading the virus. The viral droplets can enter one’s nasal passage through the mouth or nose, and begin to replicate, producing an infection.

“I think handkerchiefs look nice in a drawer, but, frankly, the concept is pretty disgusting,” says Fox.

Either way, you should wash your hands. That’s the best way to prevent colds from spreading.

common error

  • Some people mistakenly think their cold is the flu. But it’s a common error since the two can be considered symptomatic cousins. Both can induce coughing, runny nose and sneezing, but “the flu usually hits quite hard, and takes longer to get over,” says Kaplan.