Cold and Flu Season: Tips for Staying Healthy
by Dr. Tony Wu
What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
Cold symptoms usually come on gradually beginning with a sore throat followed by runny or stuffed nose, congestion and cough. A slight fever is possible. Symptoms last for about a week and during the first three days you are contagious. Rest is the best way to treat a cold. Staying well hydrated also helps. Over-the-counter supplements such as daily vitamin C (500 mg) may shorten the duration of a cold.
Flu symptoms are more severe and come on quickly. They include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea, and may not have a fever, however the most common difference between cold and flu is a higher temperature, usually in the 100-102 degree range.
Your hands carry germs.
The best way to prevent colds and flu is frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer can be effective. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands without scrubbing first with soap. Wipe down germy areas on surfaces and objects you touch.
A strong body is a strong defense.
Eat healthy foods such as low-fat proteins, fruits and vegetables with nutrients. Exercise and stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water to boost your immune response.
Get a flu vaccine.
Vaccination can reduce illness, doctor visits and missed work and school, and prevent hospitalizations.
Avoid spreading germs.
Stay home while sick for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (throw it away after), and sneeze into your elbow and not your hand. Disinfect surfaces and objects you may have contaminated with your germs.
- Tony C. Wu specializes in Primary Care, Internal Medicine and General Practice at Brown Medicine.
NOTE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone over the age of six months should get an annual influenza vaccine. New flu vaccines are created each year to combat quickly adapting disease.
Those who are particularly at risk of the flu are children, older adults and people who suffer from severe medical conditions such as asthma, cancer or cancer treatment, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver disease, and obesity.
Generally, it takes about two weeks to build immunity with the vaccine but you can still benefit from receiving the shot latter-half of flu season. In the United States, the public is recommended to get their shots between October and February.
Who shouldn’t get a flu shot?
The flu vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein; therefore people who have an allergy to eggs may need to take precautions. If you have a mild allergy to eggs, such as hives, you can still receive the flu shot without additional safety measures. Flu shots made without egg proteins are available for those with a more severe allergy or are nervous about getting a serious reaction. Likewise, if you have had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine, then it is not recommended you get a flu shot.
As always, check with your Brown Medicine provider about options for protecting yourself from the flu. If you have any questions call 1-877-771-7401.
Source: Mayo Clinic