You Can Die From A Cold. Eek.

A new one to add to the scary list of emerging infections: The CDC announced today that a new strain of “cold”–AKA adenovirus–has emerged that can kill young, healthy people. Unlike the potential “bird flu” scare, there are already ten documented deaths from this virus in the past year. So what can you do, besides cower in your bedroom with a box of tissues and hope for the best? Well, this, and other emerging infections, remind us again of the importance of the following effective basics:

1) Wash your hands–especially after handling things that are handled by many other people (such as poles on the subway). Carry a bottle of antibacterial gel to use if there is not a bathroom around. If don’t have gel and you can’t wash right away, keep your hands away from your mouth/nose/eyes until you can wash. When you’re at home or in a bathroom, though, you don’t need fancy “antibacterial” products–soap works. It works really well. The main thing is to use it. Tune in tomorrow for Doc Gurley’s fun list of Ten Creative Ways To Get Your Doctor To Wash His Hands.

2) Stay home and baby yourself if you get sick. That means drinking plenty of fluid, cranking up the humidifier, and sleeping sleeping sleeping [are you feeling sleepy yet?]. Taking decongestants, aspirin, and/or acetominophen might help you feel better, but be sure you don’t have any contraindications to taking them, and, clearly, only take them as directed (remember: no cold/flu medicines for infants/babies).

3) Pay attention to yourself and your loved ones–even if we’re talking ridiculously young and healthy. People have actually been dying of what seems like a “cold” for years–in the past, a “cold” might be the beginning symptom, but a pneumonia was generally what would kill, including killing young, healthy people. In this new CDC announcement, it’s actually the cold virus doing the killing (shudder). An infant and a 19-year-old military trainee have died from it. The bottom line is, if you are getting sicker and sicker, or if you feel like you can’t breathe, don’t keep telling yourself it’s only a cold. Get to the doctor/hospital. Let them sort out what you actually have, and help you breathe when you need it.

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