7 things you should know about the common cold

PHOTO: 7 things you should know about the common cold

The common cold is rarely life-threatening, but it is the number one reason why most adults miss work, according to Medline Plus.

It is estimated that the average adult catches between two to four colds a year. Given its ubiquity, it pays to know more about the common cold so that you can take steps to avoid getting sick or infecting others.

1. You may be spreading your germs without realising it

A cold is contagious for at least a day (some researchers say it may be two to three days) before you exhibit any symptoms, reports eMedTV. This means that even though you're feeling well, you could be spreading the virus to your colleagues and friends.

2. You are most contagious when. . .

You are most contagious is when your symptoms are at their worst - usually Day 2 to Day 4 of the cold, reports WebMD. It states that one is usually not contagious by Day 7 to Day 10, though some researchers believe that you are still contagious until all of your symptoms are gone.

3. How you may be infected

You can catch a cold by inhaling the virus if you are sitting close to someone who sneezes, or by touching your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus.

4. Sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"

The best way to avoid becoming infected is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Rub your hands for at least 15 seconds - or the time it takes to hum "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to yourself.

5. Exercise in moderation

Mild exercise is usually okay if you do not have a fever nor symptoms 'below the neck' - such as hacking cough, chest congestion or widespread muscle aches - reports Mayo Clinic. Exercise may even help you feel better by temporarily relieving nasal congestion, but you are advised to reduce the intensity of your workout. And if you feel too ill to exercise, do not push yourself. 

6. Get 8 hours of sleep a night

Lack of sleep is known to weaken the immune system. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that even minor sleep deprivation (less than 8 hours of sleep a night) can make a person more susceptible to cold viruses.

7. Stay happy and relaxed

People who have a positive outlook and generally tend to be happy and relaxed have a lower risk of developing a cold. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine finds that people who are energetic, happy and relaxed are less likely to catch a cold than those who are depressed, nervous or angry. However, the same study discovered that negative people did not necessarily get sick more often.