Home » Blog Articles » Health Advice » Staying Healthy During Flu & Cold Season

The demands of modern life are enough to create concerns about stress and its impact on the body. It is for this reason that healthcare practitioners and their patients will both agree that they do not have time to get sick.

However, every year during cold and flu season, people will inevitably get sick. There is no guaranteed method for avoiding a cold or the flu. But, there are a few tried and true actions that people can take in order to maximize their chances of staying healthy this winter.

A Cold vs. the Flu:

When people start to feel the first symptoms, it is helpful to know whether it is the common cold or the potentially more dangerous flu.

With a cold, most people usually feel the symptoms in their nose and throat area. This will likely include sneezing, coughing and nasal congestion that can linger for 3 to 10 days. The flu usually has a more sudden onset of symptoms which will include fever, chills and fatigue. Unlike a cold, these symptoms can last 1 to 3 weeks in a person. 

Knowing the difference is helpful for figuring which treatment options to use. Here are some common questions and answers that are often helpful in diagnosing a cold versus the flu. Again, this quick summary is only for convenience. One should always see a physician for a more detailed diagnosis. 

7 questions that people should ask:

Question 1: Individuals experience a sore throat and runny nose when they first wake up?

In the case of a runny nose and sore throat, the likely culprit is the cold, However, there is a chance that this is the flu. The reality is that cold and flu viruses create a few of the same symptoms. But, colds are usually milder. Symptoms that include aches, coughing, fatigue and fever are most likely signs of the flu.

Question 2: How quick was the onset?

The flu will strike a person very suddenly, in a manner of a 3 to 6 hours. But, cold symptoms can actually take a few days before they are increasingly felt by an individual.  

Question 3: A person is so tired they do not feel like even getting out of bed?

Feeling exhausted are usually one of the more telltale signs of the flu. Body aches and chills often accompany this fatigue. People should get plenty of rest and take acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen for the body aches. 

Question 4: Can people who do not look sick spread the flu?

The answer is yes! People can spread the flu a day before they start to feel symptoms as well as up to 7 days after symptoms have disappeared. However, people with a cold are most contagious 2 to 4 days after experiencing symptoms. The cold can linger for as long as 2 weeks on items and surfaces. This is why people are encouraged to wash their hands often during cold and flu season. 

Question 5: Should people stay home from work if they have a cold?

It really depends on how the person feels. If they do not feel too bad, they can likely go to work. But, they should keep in mind that they are likely contagious so they should limit contact with co-workers, use a tissue to cover their coughs and sneezing and of course, wash their hands often. However, if people have the flu, they should stay home. 

Question 6: When people have the flu, should they go back to work as soon as there are no signs of a fever?

Everyone should wait for at least 24 hours after a fever has naturally gone away. This means without using medication to bring the fever down.  

Question 7: Should people drink plenty of fluids? 

Whether it is a cold or the flu, individuals need to get plenty of fluids into their system. This will help to break up any congestion and keep a person hydrated. 

  Get a Flu Shot:

Getting a flu shot every year is one of the best ways not to catch the flu. However, a large segment of the American population still does not get a flu shot. For example, as of December 2018, over 40 percent of Americans had not received the flu vaccine. 

In research conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) out of the University of Chicago, showed that 41% of adults surveyed said they did not plan to get vaccinated. However, the highest vaccination rate (62%) was among adults over the age of 60. Adults younger than 45 were the least likely to report being vaccinated. Roughly half of this group indicated that they did not plan to receive a vaccination this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for most people over 6 months old. The CDC estimates that flu vaccination coverage among adults was 37% for the 2017-2018 season and slightly higher at 43% for the 2016-2017 season. The 2017-2018 flu season was dangerous, with a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations and more than 80,000 deaths in the United States.

The flu vaccination helps prevent people from catching the flu and reduces the severity of illness for those who do get sick. Widespread vaccination also helps create ‘herd effect’ that protects vulnerable groups who are prevented from getting vaccinated. 

Wash Hands and Disinfect — Often:

Cold and flu germs on people’s hands can quickly spread these diseases. To make things worse, an uncovered sneeze can send particles up to 26 feet away. So people can catch the flu by inhaling contaminated droplets in the air. De-contamination measures are a must when trying to avoid these illnesses. When people wash their hands, they should use soap and water while taking at least 20 seconds to complete the task. 

If people make contact with objects like doorknobs, remote controls, phones or keyboards that are contaminated, they can become sick. Especially if they then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Disinfecting heavily touched surfaces is the best way to eliminate or control the spreading of these germs.

Stocking Up for Sick Days:

It is always good planning to prepare to sick during cold and flu season. Individuals should think of this as insurance or a just in case scenario.

People should make sure they have ample amounts of tissues, hand sanitizer, soap and paper towels.  They make sure their medicine cabinet is well-stocked with fever reducers, pain relievers, cough syrups as well as decongestants. It is also helpful to have access to a good humidifier. 

Individuals should verify with their work the official sick day policy. Are sick days paid or unpaid? How many days are allowed? Is it possible to work remotely from home?

If possible, people should make sure that their kitchen cabinets and refrigerators are filled with easy-to-make foods. When individuals are recovering from a cold or flu, the last thing they want to think about is whether or not there is any food in the house. Some good options are favorite teas & sports drinks, comfort foods, chicken noodle soup, etc. 

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