Q. How does a cold virus spread from one person to the next? And what can I do to protect myself?
A. The common cold is most often spread by direct contact with the respiratory secretions of someone who is infected, typically through hand-to-hand contact. Here is how it happens: The person with a cold touches his or her mouth or nose (we do this all day without thinking). The cold viruses are now on the personís hands. The person then touches you, such as by shaking hands. You rub your eyes, nose, or mouth, and the viruses enter your body, and so it goes.
It is also possible to become infected by touching a surface, such as a tabletop or door knob, that someone with a cold recently handled. That is why washing your hands frequently during cold season is the best way to prevent catching or spreading the common cold. Another important way to avoid a cold is to keep distance between you and someone who has cold symptoms.
ó by Howard LeWine, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Menís Health Watch