Colds and flu

Updated 23 October 2017

Preventing a cold

Colds are generally unavoidable but there are a number of ways to bolster your chances of preventing a cold.

There is no sure way to prevent colds, especially in children. As children grow into adults, they naturally get fewer colds.

The following may help protect you against catching colds:

- Wash your hands often, especially when you are around people with colds.

- Stop smoking. Smoking irritates the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses, and lungs, which may make them more susceptible to infections.

- Keep your stress levels under control. If you are exposed to cold viruses, a high level of stress may increase your chances of catching a cold.

- When you have a cold, avoid sneezing without covering your mouth. Also avoid spreading nasal secretions on your hands.

- Use disposable tissues rather than a handkerchief.

Colds can't be prevented with:

- Antibiotics, which also will not prevent complications.

- Large doses of vitamin C, zinc or other vitamins and minerals

- The flu vaccine, which only protects against the influenza virus 

Read more: 

Treating a cold 

Symptoms of a cold  

Causes of a cold

Reviewed by Dr Marvin Hsiao MBBCH MMed MPH, Division of Medical Virology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Cape Town. February 2015.

(Previously reviewed by Dr Eftyhia Vardas, University of the Witwatersrand 2011)



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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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