A surprise sneeze, cough, or snot from your nose needs to go somewhere: your hands. If you’re infected with a cold virus, the chances are high that the virus will spend some time on your hands. You use your hands to touch all kinds of things that other people may also touch—like door knobs, light switches, remote controls, tablets, stair railing, car seat belts, food containers in the refrigerator or pantry, pencils and pens, car steering wheels, and so much more. Keeping your hands clean and virus-free can help ensure that you’re not leaving germs around that could make others sick.2,5
10 Tips to Prevent Spreading Your Cold
When cold symptoms strike, you want relief, fast. DayQuil and NyQuil Cold & Flu can help relieve tough cold symptoms like fever, cough, and sore throat. Despite symptom relief from DayQuil and NyQuil, though, you’re probably still contagious to those around you. Take steps to make sure you’re not passing your cold virus to anyone else.
Cold viruses can be highly contagious and tend to infect people by entering bodies through their mouths, noses, and eyes.1 People often get infected with cold viruses when these viruses are in the air around them.2 Another common way for infection to occur is that a virus gets on someone’s hands, and the person then transfers the virus to the face, giving the virus the opportunity to enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Though cold viruses may be merely a nuisance to some, they can cause significant illness and death in others, especially the immunocompromised.3,4 It’s important that we all take simple measures to prevent the spread of colds. If you have a cold, there are several things you can do to help protect others from contracting the virus that is causing your symptoms.
Here are 10 simple ways you can decrease the chances of passing on your cold to other people.
- Wash your hands regularly.
Wash your hands for 15 to 20 seconds to adequately remove the cold virus or other illness-causing agents from your hands.6
- Disinfect surfaces frequently.
- Stay home as much as possible.
By staying home, you can ensure that you do not directly infect anyone outside your home.
- Don’t sneeze or cough into the air.
- If you can’t use soap, use hand sanitizer.
- Don’t shake people’s hands.
- If you need to sneeze or cough around others, maintain physical distance.
- Throw your tissues away immediately.
- Wear a mask.
- Support the health of others in your home.
What you need to know about infectious disease. nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209710/. Accessed June 9, 2020.
Allan GM, Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ. 2014;186(3):190-199. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442
Nicholson KG, Kent J, Hammersley V, Cancio E. Acute viral infections of upper respiratory tract in elderly people living in the community: comparative, prospective, population based study of disease burden. BMJ. 1997;315(7115):1060-1064. doi:10.1136/bmj.315.7115.1060
Fendrick AM, Monto AS, Nightengale B, Sarnes M. The economic burden of non-influenza-related viral respiratory tract infection in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(4):487-494. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.4.487
Carter JM. Hand washing decreases risk of colds and flu. J Natl Med Assoc. 2002;94(2):A11.
Toney-Butler, TJ , Gasner, A, & Carver N. Hand washing (hand hygiene). nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470254/. Published 2020. Accessed June 10, 2020.
Gwaltney JMJ, Hendley JO. Transmission of experimental rhinovirus infection by contaminated surfaces. Am J Epidemiol. 1982;116(5):828-833. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a113473
Sattar SA, Jacobsen H, Springthorpe VS, Cusack TM, Rubino JR. Chemical disinfection to interrupt transfer of rhinovirus type 14 from environmental surfaces to hands. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993;59(5):1579-1585.
Jacobs SE, Lamson DM, St George K, Walsh TJ. Human rhinoviruses. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2013;26(1):135-162. doi:10.1128/CMR.00077-12
Chavis, S & Ganesh N. Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. Infect Control Dent Off. 2019:91-103.
Sultana F, Nizame FA, Southern DL, Unicomb L, Winch PJ, Luby SP. Pilot of an Elementary School Cough Etiquette Intervention: Acceptability, Feasibility, and Potential for Sustainability. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2017;97(6):1876-1885. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.16-0914
Bloomfield S et al. The effectiveness of hand hygiene procedures in reducing the risks of infections in home and community settings including handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Am J Infec Control. 2007;35(10):S27-S64.
Gold, NA & Avva U. Alcohol sanitizer. nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513254/. Published 2020. Accessed June 10, 2020.
Gwaltney JMJ, Moskalski PB, Hendley JO. Hand-to-hand transmission of rhinovirus colds. Ann Intern Med. 1978;88(4):463-467. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-88-4-463
Common colds: Overview. nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279543/. Published 2006. Accessed June 9, 2020.
Jacobs JL, Ohde S, Takahashi O, Tokuda Y, Omata F, Fukui T. Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Infect Control. 2009;37(5):417-419. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2008.11.002
Cheng KK, Lam TH, Leung CC. Wearing face masks in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic: altruism and solidarity. Lancet (London, England). April 2020. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30918-1
Dimitrov S, Lange T, Gouttefangeas C, et al. Gα(s)-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. J Exp Med. 2019;216(3):517-526. doi:10.1084/jem.20181169
Allen L V. Colds & cough. Int J Pharm Compd. 2012;16(6):480-483.
- Turner RB. The common cold. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009: Chap 53
Heikkinen T, Jarvinen A. The common cold. Lancet. 2003;361(9351):51–59.
Common cold. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000678.htm. Accessed June 26, 2020.