While most of us are being extra cautious these days when it comes to personal hygiene, some readers have been asking how they’re getting sick at all if they’re barely leaving the house.
As many people observe strict COVID protocols of only leaving home for essential reasons, coupled with strict handwashing regiments, how is the common cold or other ailments even possible?
That’s the question we posed to the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s Anne Marie Holt, who is the director of health protection.
She says the common cold “is called common for good reason.”
Holt points out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) notes the “common cold infections are so widespread that there can be very few people who escape the infection each year. It has been estimated that adults suffer 2 to 5 colds per year and is one of the leading causes of missed days at work.”
Although vastly different, colds and COVID-19 do share some similarities according to Holt.
“Certain symptoms are the same for both,” she points out like a cough, runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. Even the way the germs spread between individuals, like coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated surfaces can be the same.
“While it’s admirable people are being super strict to prevent COVID-19, the fact of the matter is that there is still a risk of getting sick – no matter what their precautions,” she says.
“Research shows that many microbes are more numerous, hardy and contagious than SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and that the best prevention efforts are not always good enough,” says Holt. According to the CCHOS there are more than 200 viruses alone that can cause colds.
“The good thing with common colds is that, unlike COVID-19, they are usually harmless,” Holt points out. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, most people recover from a common cold in three to 10 days, although some colds may last as long as two or three weeks.
The best advice is to keep up efforts to prevent illness, she says, which is more true now than ever during the pandemic. This includes staying home if sick. People are encouraged to use Ontario’s online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see if they have been exposed to coronavirus (or something else) and what recommendations to do next.
Prevention measures for COVID-19 such as frequent handwashing, mask use, physical distancing, frequenting cleaning/disinfecting, not touching your eyes/nose/mouth, and limiting contact with others may also be helpful to reduce your risk of getting a cold.