The incidence of Common Cold is higher among college (campus) students due to factors such as crowdedness and poor ventilation that usually characterize most campuses.
Though the symptoms of common cold may last only up to 14 days, the level of discomfort the affected person may go through with its associated academic consequences, calls for the need for prevention rather than cure or management.
“Common cold” is a conventional term for a mild upper respiratory illness, with which usually presents with symptoms such as nasal blockage (congestion) and discharge (runny nose), sneezing, sore throat and cough. It is a highly contagious airborne disease, that is, it can be transferred from one person to another.
The disease can be transmitted through contact with secretions that contain the virus, either directly (e.g. hand to hand) from an infected person or indirectly from surfaces (e.g. door knob), “large” airborne droplets, which are produced by an infected person during talking, sneezing, or coughing, and can only spread in air for a distance of less than 1–2 m before falling down, “small” droplet nuclei (dried droplets), that can stay airborne for an extended time and be transported long distances.
On campus, factors such as crowdedness and poor ventilation put most students at risk of contracting the disease. Campus is a crowded place and the average students spend most of his/her time in the day interacting with a lot of both animate and inanimate object.
Right from the dormitory, to the shuttle, lecture halls, libraries and back to the dormitory, students engage in different level of interactions with all manner of people and inanimate objects such as door knobs, handles in shuttle and library books. These things harbour infectious agent that may later be a source of infections for its users. Infected persons also spread the disease through talking, sneezing and coughing.
Adequate indoor ventilation reduces the spread of airborne diseases. However poor indoor ventilation found in dormitories, lecture halls/ classrooms and other gathering centres of many schools put students at a higher risk of getting common cold.
The spread of common cold can be prevented when proper measures are put in place.
Do not cough or sneeze on others. Always cough or sneeze away from them and if all sides are filled with people, bend your head down to cough or sneeze. It’s best to excuse them, if possible. Also use tissue (preferred) or handkerchief to cover mouth and nose (not only the mouth) when coughing or sneezing.
Wash your hands with soap under running water or rob your hands with sanitizer if water is not readily available. This must be done:
- After coughing or sneezing even if you used tissue to cover your mouth and nose
- Before eating especially snacks ( because of the temptation of forgetting to do so)
- Whenever you return to the dormitory or home and frequently even when outside the dormitory
- After touching anything that could be contaminated with the secretions such as handkerchiefs of others.
- Nose picking and touching of inner part of eyes is an unconscious and common practice found among most people. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Open windows for adequate ventilation. It’s good to maintain a netted window cover to prevent the entry of insects. For continuous entry of fresh air, window net must be cleaned frequently.
Dry and cold environments created in air conditioned rooms helps virus to travel faster thereby increasing the spread of airway infections. Also, filters in air conditions traps dirt and viruses which can also be a source of airway infection.
To prevent this, temperature must be kept at comfortable levels between 21°C and 24°C at offices, lecture halls, offices and rooms. It’s also worth remembering that air conditioning doesn’t bring fresh air indoors. Thoroughly ventilating rooms in the evening or early morning can therefore help you get rid of existing air pollutants that are causing respiratory problems. Air filters in air conditions must also be regularly clean or replaced.
By Assandoh_Mensah Prince, RN