How to Survive Flu Season
Coughing, sneezing, sore throat, migraines… the list goes on and on. That time of the year is right around the corner so before you reach for that third bottle of orange juice to “prepare” your immune system, I’ve created a guide to get you through this cold and flu season.
Common Cold vs. Flu
First off, let’s go back to the basics and compare the common cold to the flu. Many people get sick, but the flu has more severe symptoms and is much more dangerous to the elderly and young children.
The common cold is usually associated with sneezing, a runny nose, coughing and/or a sore throat. On average, adults have 2-3 colds per year. There is no cure or vaccine to prevent the cold. Over-the-counter medicine does not cure a cold, but it may help relieve symptoms associated with the cold. Most people recover within 10 days.
The flu is more severe than the cold. Symptoms include fevers (or feeling feverish), headaches, and body aches. You can help prevent the flu by getting the flu shot. If you are diagnosed with the flu, there are antiviral drugs that can help treat your illness. Most people get the flu between December and March. However, the flu season can last from October all the way until May.
The table below is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can help you quickly determine if you have a cold or the flu.
3 Common Myths
1. You can get the flu from the flu shot
The flu shot cannot give you the flu. Flu vaccines are not made from live flu viruses. That means there is no flu virus inside your body after you get the shot. While you may still feel ill after receiving the vaccine, it could be due to a number of factors but the vaccine itself is not the cause.
2. Cold weather makes you sick
The cold weather does not immediately cause sickness. However, the viruses that cause colds can spread more easily in the colder months. Also, keep in mind that more people are sick in the winter because they expose themselves to more people (and more germs). When it’s cold outside, people usually stay inside and close to each other. This makes it more likely to spread germs.
3. Vitamin C is the key to staying healthy
There’s actually very little proof that supports the claim that extra vitamin C will keep you from getting the flu or common cold. In fact, a 2013 study found that increasing vitamin C to at least 200mg a day decreased the duration of cold symptoms in adults by 8%. For an adult that gets sick 12 days a year, that 8% decrease would only mean they would improve one day sooner... 11 days a year!
Bottom line: Vitamin C is an important vitamin for your overall health. However, it’s better to get the recommended amount year-round instead of waiting until you’re sick and increasing your dosage.
So if vitamin C won’t save me, what do I do?
You can hide in your room for the entire flu season or you can practice these healthy habits.
Top 5 Healthy Habits
1. Wash Your Hands Regularly
I hate that I have to include this but we have all seen at least one person that didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Remember washing your hands includes soap AND water.
2. Avoid Close Contact With People Who Have Cold/Flu Symptoms
You cannot help them get better if you get sick too. Remember to wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly after checking on them. And AVOID touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you’ve washed your hands.
3. Stay Physically Active
Compared to those with sedentary lifestyles, people who are physically active on a consistent basis are less likely to get sick.
4. Make Healthier Food Choices
You can find all of the vitamins and minerals you need in the foods you eat. Pile on the fruits and vegetables!
5. Get Vaccinated Every Flu Season
It’s important that you remember it’s not just about you. The flu shot protects those who cannot receive the shot either because they are too young, elderly, or have other conditions that have weakened their immune system. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start working after you receive it. If you have not gotten it by the end of October, I recommend getting the shot as soon as possible.
Are you ready for flu season? How are you preparing yourself and your family?
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