Monday, December 8, 2008

Facts about common cold transmission

If there's any good news about the common cold, it might be this: You don't have to stop kissing your sniffling loved one's lips just to avoid catching their colds. But you probably will want to stop holding hands. ...

Rhinoviruses infect the lining of the nose. But surprisingly, these viruses don't live in saliva, says Dr. J. Owen Hendley, a leading rhinovirus specialist and professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The lining of the nose "is a different form of epithelial tissue from the lining of the mouth and throat," he says. And the cold virus, having come from the nose, does not fare as well in the dissimilar environment of the mouth.

Colds typically spread when virus-laden mucus from a sick person's nose gets onto the fingertips of a well person who then rubs his own nose or eyes. In short, says Hendley, that means that "kissing is okay, but hand holding is not." ...

As for those increasingly popular alcohol-based sanitizing gels, sorry, but they may not measure up to plain soap and water. "Rhinoviruses like alcohol. They think it's tasty," says Hendley. For whatever reason, adds Zachary of MGH, "cold viruses are not as susceptible to alcohol-based hand disinfectants as other viruses and bacteria."
--Judy Foreman, Boston Globe, on good news for kisses

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