I have to attend classes at the university, band rehearsals, I live with my family, so I come close with many people during the day. I have to meet most of these people on a daily basis, even when I have the (common) cold.

How can I prevent it from spreading to the people around me?


3 Answers 3


There are lots of things you can do to be a responsible and considerate individual. Props for even asking this question!

  1. Cover your cough to prevent air-borne transmission with the inner part of your arm or your shoulder- whichever come into contact with other people less.

  2. Wash your hands with water and soap regularly for at least 20 seconds. That means before every meal and bathroom trip at least! Try as hot as you can bare so that it kills the bacteria. Carry hand sanitizer or some antibiotic wipes in case you don't have access to a sink or water.

  3. Rest and recovery (refer to anongoodnurse below) will build up antibodies. Try to get some sleep on your own and hold back on curling up with another person to avoid getting them sick too. Be sure to change your sheets regularly as well.

  4. Don't touch your face. Take caution to avoid eyes, nose, mouth, particularly.

  5. Use and carry tissues or napkins. Discard after use, wipe, or even just dabs. If you keep dabbing and leaving them on a surface, you'll risk contamination.

  6. Take a hot shower after you get home everyday. Doing so minimizes any other threatening particles that you may have acquired throughout the day.

  7. Don't share food or drinks with anyone. Anything your mouth touches will be contaminated and may sicken others.

  8. If you play a woodwind, try a decongestant so that you don't accidentally sneeze on a fellow band member and so that you can properly channel your breath.

Side notes- If the hot water starts drying out your skin, use a moisturizer.

Feel better soon!


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    Nice answer. Some excellent points! A few quibbles. #2: Time spent washing is much more important than temperature. Also, it'll destroy your hands. 3) Tylenol contains acetaminophen and is not an anti-inflammatory; Advil does not and is. Neither will change anything except how you feel. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 12:06
  • Anongoodnurse, I've editted my answer. Thanks for the clarification.
    – Dave Liu
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 23:12
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    I appreciate the good vibes. But I also found some dangerous recommendations on your answer. For example the "HOT water" part, you haven't edited that as you told @anongoodnurse ... also, IMHO you shouldn't recommend branded drugs; Ibuprofen should be mentioned instead of advil and Paracetamol instead of Tylenol. ACTUALLY, no drug should be prescribed whatsoever, that's the job of a medic professional/GP, this person was only asking how to prevent from spreading his cold to others. I'm sorry but this answer has so many upvotes and is so wrong that I feel the need to flag it. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 22:01
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    Thank you, your answer remains very helpful and now it does not contain bad advice neither spam. I also suggest adding some references. From CDC maybe? Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 22:22
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    I really appreciate the time taken to guide me into improving it.
    – Dave Liu
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 1:38

I'd like to offer a different perspective.

DaveL's answer is helpful if you absolutely have to carry on being a "productive" person and attend critical events for your career or life in general, all those recommendations DaveL offered will reduce the amount of people you'll infect, but chances are you'll infect people anyway because many diseases are infectious since before you show symptoms and you don't need to sneeze to spread it, talking can spread some viruses too, (e.g. the seasonal influenza is contagious since before you even know you are infected⁽¹⁾).

[...] flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. [...] Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

The social aspect is why people are thanking you for even asking. So from a social perspective, DaveL's recommendations are also helpful if you want others to perceive you're trying not to get them infected, but in reality some people will know you should have stayed home because many people around you will get infected⁽¹⁾ (but most importantly, you should stay home to get better).

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.

First of all, you need the assistance of a professional to get properly diagnosed.

You need to know why you have this "common cold" symptoms, so your treatment is adequate for just having a common cold or something a bit more serious or a lot more dangerous, many illnesses display symptoms of the common cold (e.g. the flu, but the list is big).⁽²⁾

Several hundred different viruses may cause your cold symptoms.

In the mean time and while you get properly diagnosed, IMHO any disease that has the potential to be airborne infectious can be somewhat mitigated and contained following the procedures, precautions and advice given by CDC to contain and deal with the flu. So I will elaborate on that particular case (again, I can't stress this enough, ask for professional advice, this answer should only broaden your general sense of how to avoid contagion for you and for others to some degree).

Stay home if sick, or get vaccinated every season before you get sick (flu only).

  1. People will appreciate that you stood home better than sneezing or coughing "with the inner part of your arm" (which by the way is more ritual than safe practice, it is better to fully cover your mouth and nose⁽³⁾).
  2. If you are the type of person who can't afford to stay home if you catch the flu, then the more reason you should get vaccinated every season⁽⁴⁾ (Getting vaccinated won't protect you against anything and everything but it will protect you from a broad range of flu type viruses).

1. About Staying home.⁽⁵⁾

You don't "have to" attend anything that's not critical, attend your health and well being, that is critical. Staying home will dramatically reduce the amount of possible subjects to be infected, in this case your family, so stay home and follow all hygienic recommendations.

  • Ventilate your house and specially your room, if you have a window to the street, open that (unless it is raining outside).
  • Change your sheets and blankets as regular as possible (every 2-3 days until 5 days after you recovered, 7 days for children). Do it when you're alone and everyone else went to work/school. If you have both washing and drying machines, great, if not, at least take them out to the sun, do not keep infected used blankets inside your home.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

2. About Getting Vaccinated.⁽⁶⁾ (flu only)

The best prevention is not to get sick at all. If you're not sick then you're not contagious.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. There are several flu vaccine options for the 2014-2015 flu season.

Some additional info.

Virus that are so commonly transmitted like the flu are not going away anytime soon. Unless all potential hots/carriers get vaccinated at the same time repeatedly season after season until all types (A, B & C types)⁽⁷⁾ of influenza viruses die with no viable hosts to replicate and evolve on.

There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B and C. Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease almost every winter in the United States. The emergence of a new and very different influenza virus to infect people can cause an influenza pandemic. Influenza type C infections cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics.

Those viable hosts include more than 7 billion human beings and who knows how many animals that can carry along the virus and help it keep evolving⁽⁸⁾

a graphic table depicting the kind of animals affected by different strands of influenza; which include humans, poultry, pigs, and to less degree other animals including bats

And most importantly, consult your GP.

Reference index.

1. How Flu Spreads 2. Flu or Cold Symptoms? 3. Cover Your Cough 4. Preventing Seasonal Flu With Vaccination 5. Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School 6. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine 7. Types of Influenza Viruses 8. Transmission of Influenza Viruses from Animals to People

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    -1 (Sorry; I will be glad to retract my vote when you have corrected the information.) There is no vaccination against the common cold; is your answer addressing influenza? If it is, I do agree with much of what you say; if it is not specific for influenza, then I think you need to reread the question! Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 2:14
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    good call, how do you like my new approach? Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 3:41
  • I would separate the two categories much more clearly. :-/ That's me, though. Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 4:26
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    I reordered the info to make it easier to read what's more relevant first, what do you think? Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 20:15

A cold can be spread through:

  • direct contact (via airborne droplets) – if you sneeze or cough, tiny droplets of fluid containing the cold virus are launched into the air and can be breathed in by others
  • indirect contact – if you sneeze onto a door handle and someone else touches the handle a few minutes later, they may catch the cold virus if they then touch their mouth or nose.

These things can help you to prevent it from spreading:

  • wash your hands regularly and properly, particularly after touching your nose or mouth and before handling food,
  • always sneeze and cough into tissues as this will help to prevent the virus-containing droplets from your nose and mouth entering the air where they can infect others; throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands,
  • clean surfaces regularly to keep them free of germs,
  • use your own cup, plates, cutlery and kitchen utensils,
  • use disposable paper towels to dry your hands and face, rather than shared towels and always dispose of the paper towels after you have finished using them,
  • use disposable devices that cover your mouth and nose with scarf, veil, face shields or surgical mask while sitting with people which will provide minimal protection from viruses for other people around.

Source: Cold, common: Introduction and Preventing a common cold at NHS

See also:

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    I don't understand why you got downvoted so much. Downvotes are for unhelpful answers, by all that I've read, your answer seems useful to me, maybe you should add some solid references? Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 0:55
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    @JorgeArtware I think because previous version was shorter and I suggested to drink naturally green tea with Vitamin C and Paracetamol, probably my mistake:) At least it was helping for me.
    – kenorb
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 9:21

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