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Bless You! How You Can Still Catch A Cold Despite Following COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

January 08, 2021

Thanks to COVID-19 public health guidelines, the number of flu cases in the nation and in Connecticut are down significantly in this current influenza season.

But even with your mask-wearing, hand-washing, social-distance-keeping, you can still catch a cold or get the flu.

“Like influenza and COVID-19, colds spread through the air via droplets expelled when a person sneezes or coughs,” said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. “The number of colds and flu has decreased thanks in large part to mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene, but there are other ways that cold viruses can spread.”

Bieluch noted that some viruses that cause colds such as rhinoviruses and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can survive on surfaces, particularly hard surfaces such as door knobs, computer keyboards and elevator buttons, longer than the virus that causes COVID-19. These germs may even be able to survive a swipe with a disinfecting wipe, she said. “If you touch this contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, nose or eye you can develop a cold.”

And a special note to caregivers of babies and toddlers: Some adenoviruses that cause colds can be spread through stool such as when you change a child’s diaper and then touch your eye, nose or mouth, Bieluch said.

Bravo to you for conscientiously wearing a mask when you are outside your home, Bieluch said, but “you need to take care when removing your mask in case there are virus droplets on the front of your mask. Don’t touch the front of your mask, but rather, remove your mask by the straps. Wash a cloth mask frequently.”

After you remove your mask, it is important to sanitize your hands immediately, she said.

“This year, everyone is very concerned about symptoms of a cold because these same symptoms can also be seen with COVID-19,” Bieluch said. “Testing for COVID-19 is an important public health measure. While your symptoms may be limited to runny nose, mild cough, sneezing, you can spread COVID-19 to someone else who might become more seriously ill. It is important to know whether you have COVID-19.”

So if you wake up in the morning with a runny nose and a scratchy throat, what should you do?

“If you develop symptoms of a cold, first of all quarantine yourself from others and then try to obtain COVID-19 testing and continue to quarantine yourself until you get a negative result,” she said. “If your symptoms progress and you have shortness of breath, more significant cough, high fever or any more serious symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.”