The Common Cold Germ Virus

The cold germ and virus are easily and quickly spread, especially during cold season, which is during the fall. Most colds are caught in the months of September through March or April. In the United States alone, over 1 billion colds are experienced each year.

This is no surprise, considering the fact that the common cold comes from over 200 strains of common cold virus.

Most people catch the common cold from either hand-to-hand contact with a sick person, or touching an object that a sick person has touched and then transferring the germs to the nose, mouth or eyes.

How Long Cold Germs Live

How long cold germs live on objects depends on the particular strain of cold virus and the type of object the germs are living on. Hard non-porous objects, such as doorknobs and countertops, allow germs to live longer than porous objects, such as paper or clothing.

Cold germs can live outside the body anywhere from a few seconds to approximately 48 hours.

Children catch the common cold virus far more often than adults. Adults average two to four colds a year, while children generally get six to 10 colds in that same period. This is because children usually come into contact with each other more often, which more easily spreads the cold germ and virus. Children also share objects frequently, especially at school. Disinfecting toys and other shared equipment, such as crayons or scissors and play toys can help prevent some common cold virus spread.

Avoiding the Cold Virus

Children are also more likely to touch their faces than adults and are also less likely to wash their hands often. Touching the face is one of the most common ways to transfer the cold germ and virus to your body. One of the best ways to avoid the cold germ and virus is to frequently wash your hands.

Avoiding contact with sick people is another way to prevent getting the cold. The first few days that a person is sick are the days the person is most contagious, so be especially careful during this period. However, a person can still be contagious after the first few days. Colds can last up to two weeks and contact with a person who has a cold should be avoided throughout the duration of the cold.

Do not share towels or washcloths with sick people. Also, using disinfectant spray or wipes on commonly touching objects can be helpful in avoiding the cold germ and virus.

Avoiding the cold virus can be difficult to impossible in some cases, but the following can help:

  • Choose a child care center that doesn’t allow sick children. Many centers have policies that require sick children to be sent home to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Do not share glasses or eating utensils with anyone.
  • Take vitamins and supplements such as vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc. While researchers disagree on how effective these are at fighting off colds, they can’t hurt and could protect your body from the cold virus.
  • Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and immediately throw it away and wash your hands after use.

Resources

Mayo Clinic (2007). Common Cold. Retrieved October 29, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/common-cold/DS00056/DSECTION=1.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (2006). Common Cold. Retrieved October 29, 2007, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Web site: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/healthscience/healthtopics/colds/overview.htm.

Steckelberg, James, M.D. (2007). Cold and flu germs: How long can they survive outside the body? Retrieved October 29, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infectious-disease/AN01238.