We ask an expert about the common cold & how to avoid falling sick

Sleep more, stress less.

| Zhangxin Zheng | Sponsored | April 02, 2022, 09:57 AM

After living with Covid-19 for almost two years, we have become more knowledgeable about keeping viruses at bay.

We all know the drill – Mask up, use hand sanitisers and disinfectant spray, and take Vitamin C supplements.

But what about post-Covid? What do we do to prevent ourselves from falling sick?

We spoke to Wong Yong Chiat, a Senior Scientist at Procter & Gamble (P&G), who has 10 years of experience in biomedical research and a PhD in Pharmacology, for some advice.

Common cold – the most common illness on this planet

Pre-Covid, the common cold is likely the most common illness due to over 200 strains of cold viruses existing in this world, Wong shared.

We are familiar with the symptoms of a cold, which include coughing, chest congestion, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat.

While they are not life-threatening, they can last for seven to 10 days but sometimes three weeks or more.

Cold infections rate likely to go back up to pre-pandemic level

Interestingly, some of us are not falling sick as frequently over the past two years.

As we guard against the Covid-19 with mandatory face masks and other social distancing rules, the chances of us getting the common cold are reduced effectively as the cold viruses share the same mode of transmission as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Wong said.

Wong cited a public health study conducted last year, which revealed that the number of people getting non-Covid-19 acute respiratory infections during the 2020 Circuit Breaker period had reduced by up to 80 per cent as compared to that in 2019. It remained low even after the Circuit Breaker ended.

But things are likely to change when borders reopen and social interactions resume, Wong also anticipated that the cold infection rates are likely to go up to pre-pandemic levels.

Is there any peak period for common cold infections in Singapore?

The cold infection in Singapore has a year-round transmission with no clear seasonality, Wong said.

So you can’t just stay home for a certain period of the year to avoid the cold viruses.

According to the Global Health Data Exchange, Singapore had an estimated 14.7 million incidences of cold and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

On average, adults can catch a cold or URTI two to five times a year, while seniors can catch it once or twice, and children can catch it up to 10 times.

How to prevent ourselves from catching a cold or falling sick in general?

Having a healthy immune system is important to prevent ourselves from falling sick.

Besides taking Vitamin C tablets, one should never underestimate the power of sleep.

Insufficient sleep is associated with reduced functioning of the immune system and increases our susceptibility to upper respiratory infections, Wong said.

A person with an average sleep duration of fewer than seven hours was reported to be three times more likely to develop a cold than one who sleeps more than eight hours.

How we manage and respond to stress matters too.

According to a study, highly-stressed people have a higher rate of cold infections.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and not exercising will further weaken your immunity.

Besides a healthy immune system, practising good personal hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent getting the common cold.

So, remember to keep up with the frequent hand washing post-Covid!

Early intervention with Vicks First Defence

If you find yourself falling victim to the cold bugs frequently, maybe you would like to add an extra layer of defence with Vicks First Defence.

There is emerging evidence supporting the use of mucoadhesive gel nasal sprays against respiratory infections, Wong said.

When a user sprays Vicks First Defence into the back of the nose at the first signs of a cold, such as having a scratchy throat or sneezing, the microgel will stick to the surface of the nasal passages and create a barrier that traps cold virus particles.

Furthermore, the slightly acidic gel will transiently lower the pH of one’s nasal cavity, which can inactivate the viruses and reduce their ability to multiply and cause further infection on your respiratory cells, Wong described.

The spray will also stimulate natural nasal discharge, so you either swallow the inactivated virus down to your stomach, which is an even more acidic environment or blow it out of your nose.

As such, the nasal spray should help you reduce the symptom severity and shorten the overall duration of a cold by around 2.4 days, according to a large-scale clinical study done by P&G.

How to use Vicks First Defence?

Vicks First Defence is easy to use, and available at pharmacies.

Start using it as soon as you experience the first signs of a cold (like scratchy throat or sneezing).

Simply spray two to three times into each nostril. Allow four hours between applications and no more than four applications in 24 hours, and use it until the symptoms subside, Wong advised.

You can also start using Vicks First Defence when you feel like you are at risk of catching a cold. For example, you can use it after coming into close contact with someone with cold symptoms, and if the symptoms are not emerging after four days, you should stop using it.

This nasal spray is not a cure for your illness, so see a doctor promptly if your symptoms persist.

For those with inflamed skin or inner lining of the nose, do not use Vicks First Defence as it may cause further irritation.

Otherwise, Vicks First Defence is suitable for adults and children 12 years and older.

Do note that you should not be sharing this nasal spray with others for hygiene reasons.

Read the label before use and use as directed. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.

The writer of this sponsored article by Vicks gets ultrasensitive these days when someone coughs near her.

Top image via Pixabay