Tips and Tricks for Fighting Cold Weather Germs
The winter season brings knitted scarves, warm drinks and snowy skies. But along with the dropping temperatures come runny, red noses and junky coughing fits.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season begins as early as October and November and can last as late as May. During this time, taking the right precautions reduces your chances of getting ill or making others sick. Try these tips for surviving cold and flu season to stay healthy during the colder months.
How to Avoid Getting a Cold or the Flu
Getting ready for flu and cold season involves practicing healthy habits. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for almost everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this potentially serious illness.
To take care of the rest of winter’s germs, you can try these simple healthy habits to prevent the flu and common cold:
- Wash your hands: Remember to wash your hands on a regular basis or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To prevent dry, cracking skin on the hands, use an unscented, hypoallergenic moisturizer.
- Clean and disinfect: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. At work, use antibacterial wipes to clean doorknobs, keyboards, phones, etc.
- Take care of your health: A healthy immune system helps you ward off winter illnesses. Improve your overall health by eating well, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Managing stress also increases your immune function.
- Stay away from sick people: If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), pertussis (whooping cough) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
What to Do When You Have a Cold or the Flu
If you get sick during cold and flu season, your symptoms will depend on the type of illness you have. The flu and common cold both have similar symptoms, though colds tend to be less severe than the flu. Colds also are less likely to lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalizations.
The cold and the flu have a few symptoms in common:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Sinus pressure
- Sore throat
You should be evaluated by a medical professional if your cold symptoms are especially severe, if you have known influenza exposure or if your cold symptoms last longer than expected. A cold will go away with time, but bothersome symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications. For the flu, prescription anti-viral medications are sometimes prescribed. If you think you might have the flu, it's important to talk to a health care provider.
Cold and Flu Treatment From Instacare
At InstaCare, we offer a variety of cold and flu treatment services. If you haven’t received this season’s influenza vaccination, stop by one of our locations to get services today. We can also diagnose and treat your illness to get you on the path to feeling better. That way, you can spend less time feeling sick and more time on building snowmen and sledding!
About the Author
Samantha Singer, PA-C, is a board-certified physician assistant with InstaCare.