How to beat cold & flu season
It’s the time of year again: flu season. Blech. You know it’s here from the coughing toddler in a department store, the nose-wiping teen on the train and your roommate who just came home from the pharmacy stuffed to the gills with cough syrup. No one wants to fall victim to a nasty cold or the flu, but it seems almost impossible to avoid when everyone around you is sick. Here are some tips to keep you as healthy as possible.
Do your part in restricting the spread germs
Wash your hands! This is the golden rule of flu season. Use soap and water to frequently wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available. Avoid spending extended time in close quarters with sick people. If you’re going to cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth. Bonus: use a tissue and discard it in a trash can after use
- On a related note: don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nose unnecessarily. This leads to the spread of germs.
- If you’re sick, try not to have contact with others; stay home if you have a fever except to get medical care or medicine.
- Wipe surfaces and objects with disinfectant, especially those that might be contaminated with flu germs
Get vaccinated against the flu
The best step to prevent getting the flu is to get the yearly flu vaccine (per the CDC), which should protect against the most common strains of the flu The “flu shot” can reduce the likelihood of flu illness, and keep you away from the doctor. Flu vaccination can keep you from missing school and work because of the flu and may keep you out of the hospital
- All people 6 months of age and older can and should get a flu vaccine every year before the height of flu season (aka before the end of October)
- If you are at high risk (older adults, younger children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions) of flu complications, it’s extra-important to get the flu vaccine to decrease your risk of severe flu illness.
- If you work in health care or otherwise care for high risk people, the flu vaccination can keep you from spreading the flu to these people
- If you have or care for an infant child under 6 months old, you should be vaccinated to protect them from contracting the flu. They are too young to be vaccinated so you are their best defense.
Ease your symptoms if you do come down with the flu
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your illness if you get the flu. These can make the flu milder and shorten the length of your illness. Drink lots of liquids. The goal should be to drink enough to make your urine clear or light yellow. Drinking water, juice, tea, or broths can help keep you from becoming dehydrated.
- Take pain relievers as needed. Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) can reduce aches and pains associated with the flu.
- Sleep it off. You will need more rest than usual as your immune system fights off the infection. Give yourself plenty of time to rest as your body tries to repair itself.
Check in with your doctor regularly
If you have a Decent health plan, we have good news: you can see your primary doctor as often as you’d like...for free. So get ahead of flu season by scheduling time to get a flu shot and create a “stay healthy” game plan with your doctor. Continue to check in throughout the winter and come in if you do come down with a bug. With Decent health plans, your doctor is incentivized to help keep you well. Take advantage of our free direct primary care to keep you out of the sick bed and in your favorite work chair.
You still have a few weeks left to meet the CDC’s guideline of getting the flu shot before the end of October. It’s your best bet against getting sick and spreading the illness to others who may be high risk. If you do get sick, remember that you may be contagious from a day before symptoms first appear all the way until 5-10 days after symptoms begin. Following the suggestions above should keep you as healthy as possible as we move into the season of sneezing. Just remember, cover your mouth and nose and wash your hands!