We spend around five years of our life suffering from the common cold which is a significant drain on workplace productivity, negatively impacting absenteeism and presenteeism.
A 2010 study in Sweden on 2213 18-65 year-olds found a mean productivity loss of 5.1 days per worker per year due to the common cold or allergic rhinitis – commonly known as hayfever.
Absenteeism accounted for 44 per cent of that lost productivity, presenteeism 37 per cent and caregiver absenteeism – where a worker is absent to care for a dependent – accounted for 19 per cent.
A 2002 US study found the work-related economic impact of colds to be US$20 million. While the study is dated, the common cold continues to be a drain on business and society and that figure has likely increased.
Avoiding the cold | Sleep more, stress less:
Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for the common cold and once infected, antibiotics will not have any impact on curing the virus, so prevention is the best option.
Sleep is the best method of preventing a cold, according to research published by the University of Southern California in 2015.
They deliberately exposed – with nasal drops – 164 people to the common cold and monitored them for a week to see if they were able to fight the illness.
Those who slept less than six hours a night the week prior to being exposed were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold compared to those who got more than seven hours of sleep. Those who slept less than five hours were 4.5 times more likely to become infected.
“It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn’t matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day,” the study’s lead author, Aric Prather said.
Despite being found not to be as important as sleep in this study, high stress levels are also a contributor to catching the cold.
Wash your hands regularly:
Another effective method of preventing colds is to wash your hands regularly with soap which can dislodge cold viruses from our hands.
Research has consistently found that regular hand-washing reduces the prevalence of upper respiratory tract infections resulting in significant workplace productivity improvements.
However, antibacterial soaps are not recommended due to their contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria while also containing chemicals that have been banned in America.
Gargle salt water:
A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that those who gargled salt water three times each day were far less likely to suffer from an upper respiratory tract infection.
In the event you do get sick, the study also found that gargling salt water helps minimise symptoms.
Plenty of rest and reduced stress will help beat a cold while symptoms may be relieved with paracetamol. As well as gargling salt water, the consumption of a couple of teaspoons of honey may ease a cough.
A nasal spray or nasal irrigation may also help alleviate sinus congestion, while maintaining hydration is important. Drinking hot fluids may help the body break down and expel mucus.
Yet despite popular belief, drinking more than is required to hydrate will not assist in the management of an illness.