1. What can I do to prevent myself from getting a cold?
First off, it is safe to assume that the cold virus is present wherever and whenever. Due to a virus’ complex nature and its constantly mutating genetic structure, complete defense against a virus is difficult even with a vaccination. As we all know we are most prone to sickness when our immune system weakens. So the question we want to ask is, in what moments are our bodies most susceptible to infection. The answer is that we are most vulnerable when subject to a sudden change in temperature. Some scenarios in which this is common are: after you’ve worked out and the wind cools your sweat, leaving the house after a shower without drying your hair properly, when you sleep with thin clothes and kick your sheets off and you feel cold suddenly, and when the days get hotter so you decided to wear thin clothes but you still shiver in the evenings when it gets cold.
You might be wondering ‘Doctor, are you stating the obvious that we should wear warm clothes?’, to which I’d answer ‘Yes, of course’. However, as this answer is not very insightful, I will share a secret tip I like to practice. Ideally, you want to make your entire body warm, but there are some circumstances where doing so is impractical or impossible. In such cases, you should focus on keeping your neck and upper back warm. Scarves are a good choice to do so and vests are particularly beneficial for the elderly. One of the more common viruses, rhinovirus, thrives and is most active between 33-35°F. Although the body regulates its temperature around 36.5-37°F, because the mouth and nose are openings that are exposed to the environment, these areas are prone to dropping temperature relatively quickly. As such, wearing a scarf will help keep the temperature higher around your neck and prevent infection. Vancouver is an area that experiences temperature fluctuations daily and even worse, has temperature differences between being in the shade and the sun. Thus, adding a scarf to your outfit is something I cannot emphasize enough if you are looking to prevent yourself from catching a cold.
2. I feel like I am catching a cold! What should I do?
A common symptom after a virus first enters your body is a general feeling of unwellness creeping up. Whether it be a sore throat or back discomfort, you know how this symptom manifests in you. Whatever it is, observing and knowing your symptoms is crucial as the early stage of infection is the only opportunity you have to block out the virus. If you let this window of opportunity pass by you will have no choice but to experience the full range of sickness. In any case, if you feel your body stiffen you need to find a means to sweat. This is because your body displays symptoms as it rushes blood through the body to fight the oncoming infection. The rushing of blood elevates pressure and body temperature, further contributing to the severity of your symptom. In these moments, sweating will help as it resolves the emergency situation created by the body by releasing the pressure built up by your body. Some may turn to spicy foods to build up a sweat, but I recommend taking a hot bath and changing out into new clothes afterwards. However, as the early stages of an infection are short, if you miss this timing, your nose will start to run and you will begin to cough as your symptoms become more severe. Therefore, when you feel your body becoming stiff, make sure you find a way to start sweating as soon as possible.
3. Does my child need medicine for fever?
In order to answer this question, it is crucial to understand why fever exists in the first place. To fight off the viral infection, your body produces white blood cells. The fever is the byproduct of the fighting which also acts as a signal for your body to produce more white blood cells. This cycle continues until the healing process completes. Thus, your child getting a fever is not something to worry about. In fact, it is a sign that their body is working and fighting. It may be tempting to soothe your child with medication to lower their temperature, but I urge you to fight against it. In the case high fever persists for longer than three days and different symptoms begin to manifest, you should make an appointment with your family doctor. A common misconception people have is that high fever can cause brain damage. However, if body temperature does not exceed 41°F, your child will not experience any form of brain damage, whether physical or mental. Remember, the very fact your child is experiencing fever indicates that their immune response is strong and working. This is a great opportunity for the body to rid itself of unnecessary waste; please try to think of it as a blessing.