The economic impact of the common cold is estimated to be over $40 billion every year in the United States alone according to a study by Dr. Fendrick in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Americans suffer over 500 million colds every year, around two for every man, woman, and child.
To battle these cold infections, Americans spent over $2.9 billion on over-the-counter remedies and over $400 million on prescriptions just for symptomatic relief in 2003.
They go to medical doctors more than 100 million times during the year, with an additional cost of around $7.7 billion. While at the medical doctor’s office, more than one third cold sufferers will receive prescriptions for antibiotics which are probably ineffective for cold viruses as well as contributing to increases in antibiotic resistance. This estimated 40 million antibiotic prescriptions costs an additional $1.1 billion annually.
But the greatest economic impact of the common cold is in lost work-related time. American children lost around 189 million school days (2003 figures). Parents stayed home to take care of their sick children and lost over 126 million workdays. Combining the cost of parents staying home with employees staying home because of the common cold led to work-related losses for the economy of more than $20 billion, according to Dr. Fendrick.
While the common cold still has no cure, preventing colds would save billions of dollars and prevent a great deal of human suffering.
There are some simple habits that can help lower the risk of infection and thus lower your personal economic impact of the common cold.
One of the most important things you can do is wash your hands with soap and water throughout the day.
Also, if you are around other people who are sick, you should avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes with your hands. Most cold viruses are spread by direct contact with your hands.
Keep a supply of clean handkerchiefs for use when coughing or sneezing. This will help protect others and stop the cycle of infection.
Good health habits are always important: drink plenty of water, get sufficient sleep, exercise daily, eat your fruits and vegetables, and manage stress. You may want to add green tea daily to your healthy habits. Green tea studies show that green tea inactivates the common cold virus. You can find more information on green tea and viruses here
Using these preventive habits could substantially reduce the economic impact of the common cold, returning billions of dollars to the economy and helping us all feel better and enjoy life more.