Q: It seems to me that every time I get a cold, someone tells me to sweat it out with exercise. Is this a good idea, or is rest and plenty of fluids the way to go?

A: A cold is an infection that can develop because of any one of more than 200 different viruses. The rhinovirus is the most common and is highly contagious.

Symptoms usually develop from one to three days after exposure to a cold virus and can include runny nose, watery eyes, cough, sneeze, congestion and sore throat. As a general rule, fever does not occur with the common cold.

There are countless ways to come into contact with a virus. Sharing objects such as a drinking glass or cup, droplets from a contagious individual sneezing near you and hand-to-hand contact are at the top of the list. Consider that someone with a cold touches his or her mouth or nose and then opens a public door. You follow behind and touch that doorknob, exposing yourself to the very germs you try so hard to avoid. This is one reason why most supermarkets now place sanitizing wipes near their grocery carts.

Antibiotics are ineffective in treating the common cold.

While over-the-counter products may lessen your symptoms, there is no cure. When taken in excess over extended periods of time, the acetaminophen in pain relievers can cause liver damage. The chronic, extended use of decongestants can result in inflammation of mucous membranes. Symptoms will run their course in about seven days from onset. Should you find a virus lasts longer, you should play it safe and see a physician, who can diagnose you properly.

I must agree that your approach to a cold is more on the money than that of your acquaintances. But everyone is different. If they respond positively, they should continue on course.

The answer, in a word, is prevention. Wash your hands frequently. Use tissues when blowing your nose, and dispose of them in a proper receptacle. Drink extra fluids, and rest as much as possible.

Dr. Peter H. Gott is a retired physician and the author of the book, Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet, available at most chain and independent bookstores, and the recently published, Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook.