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RISMEDIA, February 18, 2009-According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the common cold is one of the largest contributors to missed work and school every year. There are more than 200 documented viruses that can cause cold symptoms of varying severity, and no known cures, therefore, more emphasis must be placed on prevention this cold and flu season.

Although it seems nearly impossible to avoid catching some form of a cold or flu, the University of Phoenix College of Nursing is recommending the following tips to reduce your chances of becoming sick:

1. Get a Flu shot. The CDC recommends the flu shot for children aged 6 months to 19 years, pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or COPD, people who live in nursing homes and long term care facilities, and for people who live with or care for those who are at high risk.

2. Hands off. Most cold and flu viruses are spread by hand to hand or skin to skin contact, so direct your germs into a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.

3. Sleep tight. Lack of sleep may profoundly weaken your immune system.

4. Stay hydrated. Drinking extra fluids and clear soups prevent dehydration caused by fever; can loosen mucus, and keeps your throat moist.

5. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Also avoid secondhand smoke which can make cold symptoms worse.

6. Use over the counter medication. Carefully read the labels of all medicines and remember that there are over the counter remedies, including decongestants that are not available on the shelf but can be obtained from the pharmacist. Parents should contact their child’s health care provider for advice on their child’s cold because many over the counter medications are no longer recommended.

7. See your doctor if symptoms persist. Generally, you can beat the common cold and flu without a trip to the doctor, but if symptoms last more than 10 days or you have trouble breathing, call you doctor immediately. Children should be seen for any worsening symptoms, especially cough, persistent fever for more than 5 days, or any fever of 105 or higher.