The cold and flu season is here! And, one of the best cures for colds and flu is prevention. But sometimes you just can’t get through the season without getting sick, and once you are sick, the age-old question arises: Is it a cold or is it the flu?
1. Wash your hands.
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times. Each time you hold or shake someone’s hand, wash yours. Lather up with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds to get rid of those pesky germs.
Not sure how long 20 seconds is? Try singing one round of “Happy Birthday” while you are scrubbing— not only will this ensure that you are scrubbing long enough, but it may bring a smile to your face.
New research is showing that happiness may help you fight off cold and flu germs. Indulge yourself regularly in:
- Positive thinking
- Playing with a pet
- Other pleasurable behaviors
These behaviors can boost your immune system and make it harder for viruses to take hold.
3. Use alcohol-based sanitizer.
When soap and water are not available, use a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
4. Don’t touch your face or bite your nails.
The most common places for germs to enter your body are through your nose and your eyes. They can also live under your fingernails. Enough said.
5. Get 8-10 hours of sleep when you’re feeling low.
It is tempting to say, “I don’t have enough time for that.” But do you have enough time to get sick?
Think of taking a few hours of extra sleep as medicine. Allow your immune system to fight the germs off before they take you down for a few days or even weeks.
6. Get your flu shot.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over six months of age get a flu shot every year before the time the flu season starts showing up.
7. Eat fruits and vegetables.
Give your immune system a boost by eating nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
8. Exercise. Exercise. And exercise more.
Studies suggest working out regularly enhances immune function, which will help your body fight off cold or flu germs.
9. Keep your distance.
Flu virus particles can travel as far as 6 feet when exhaled by a sick person. This includes your loved ones. Keep a wide berth whenever possible.
10. Stop smoking.
- Causes structural changes in your respiratory tract
- Destroys the cilia in your nose
- Decreases your immune response
All of which increases your risk of infection.
11. Stop sharing.
Cold and flu season is NOT the time to eat communal snacks or share from the same cup. You never know if someone came to the party sick, and it’s not worth the risk to find out.
12. Use a leather purse during the winter.
This one may be a surprise to you. It turns out that our purses pick up germs just like we do.
This means that every time you pick up your purse, you could be re-infecting yourself. You can avoid this by storing your cloth purse during the winter months and carrying one made of vinyl or leather that is easy to wipe down.
13. Decrease your stress.
Really take a look at your schedule.
- Is it super busy?
- Is it filled with things that lift you up or bring you down?
- Do you feel overwhelmed and sick just looking at it?
It may be time to set some boundaries and learn to say no to yourself and others. Your immune system, and you, will thank you for it.
Got Sick Anyway?
It happens, but you don’t have to pass it around. Cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow rather than into your hands. And stay at home while you are contagious.
You may think you have to be productive and go to work, but is it really worth it if you end up getting your whole office sick?
Hmmm….Is It a Cold or Is It the Flu?
People often ask this because cold and flu infections have similar symptoms, and they both strike around the same time. But colds and flus do have important differences. For example:
- The influenza viruses causes the flu. Many different viruses cause colds.
- There is a vaccine to prevent the flu. There is no vaccine to prevent the common cold.
- Adults have an average of two to three colds a year. Most adults only get the flu about twice a decade.
So How Do You Know Which One You Have?
It’s difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone, but there are a few differences between the symptoms. Some are subtle, and some are more pronounced.
Colds look like this:
- The symptoms usually come on gradually.
- Fevers are rare.
- Stuffy nose and sore throat are common.
- Body aches are less common and usually mild compared to flu.
- Serious complications are rare.
The flu looks like this:
- Symptoms can appear suddenly.
- Fevers are common.
- Nasal symptoms are less common in the flu than colds.
- Severe complications like pneumonia and bacterial infections can develop.
- Severe body aches are common.
The only way to actually know if you have the flu is to be tested by your provider. However, you may not really need the test because you will likely receive the same treatment, whether it is a cold or the flu.
In fact, both colds and the flu will usually pass on their own without any medical treatment. But if your symptoms get worse rather than better, a provider visit may be in order.