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Ugh! The dreaded Cold and Flu Season is upon us again. I have already been hit, my daughter has just gotten over it, and my husband feels like it is coming on. Just the cold part. The flu has not graced us with its presence…yet. So, to prepare for these dreaded illnesses, I have put together a little guide to surviving cold and flu season.
How Long Does Cold & Flu Season Last?
The Flu, itself, can strike at any time through the year. But, in general, Cold and Flu Season refers to a period starting as early as October and lasting through March with peak activity happening between December and February. According to the CDC, the month with the most activity from 1982 to 2018 has been February.
How do they spread?
Contrary to popular belief, cold air does not give you a cold. It is usually spread from one person to another when that person coughs, sneezes, or talks. When they do one of these things, small droplets can be launched into the air that can then land in the mouths or noses of people near them thereby infecting them. Isn’t that a pretty picture? A secondary way it spreads is through surface contact when a person with the virus touches a surface and another person touches the same surface and then touches their nose or mouth. This is why so many people are constantly sanitizing their homes and offices during this time. FYI…it is possible for the virus to be passed on before the carrier even knows they are sick. So, it is really hard to stop the spread.
Cold & Flu Symptoms
A cold and the flu have a lot in common but there are also a few differences.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Feeling Feverish/Chills (Not everyone will have an actual fever.)
- Dry Cough
- Sore Throat
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Severe Muscle or Body Aches
You may experience all or only some of these symptoms and, with the flu, the symptoms tend to come on really fast, sometimes within hours.
Common symptoms of a cold include:
- Stuffy/Runny Nose
- Wet Cough
- Sore Throat
- Mild Body Aches
It is not common for adults to have a fever, but children can definitely have one during a cold. Symptoms tend to come on slowly over a few days.
Treatment for Cold and Flu Illnesses
Most people who get the flu will have a mild case that does not require a trip to the doctor. In this case, the main treatment is to stay home and get plenty of rest. It is recommended that you stay home until you have been at least 24 hours fever free (if you had fever). You should also drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to stay hydrated.
If you get extremely sick, are pregnant, or over 65, it is best to see a doctor who can prescribe an antiviral medication.
For a cold, there is no cure, so treatment is only there to help you feel better and help you fight the virus. The main treatment for a cold is to get plenty of rest. Some may find they need up to 12 hours of sleep each night to properly fight a cold. Drink plenty of water as this will help thin the mucus which will help with congestion. For a sore throat, gargle with saltwater periodically. If you need further relief, consider some over-the-counter medication and/or nasal sprays.
There is no need to stay home from work unless you have a fever or aches and chills. However, if you do go to work, consider wearing a face mask to avoid spreading it to others or, at the very least, make sure you wash your hands often and avoid touching or getting too close to others.
Preventative Measures During Cold & Flu Season
There are some steps you can take to try and prevent getting the flu or a cold. First, there is the flu shot. It is very rare that we get the flu in my family when we have all had a flu shot. I think I have gotten a mild case of the flu once during my years of getting the flu shot. Second, avoid close contact with those you know are infected. Don’t feel like you are being rude by standing further away. Just calmly explain that you would prefer not to increase your chances of getting sick. Your health comes first. Third, wash your hands after touching shared surfaces and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes without washing your hands first. These preventative measures will help lessen the chance that you will catch the flu or a cold.
Keep in Mind
Keep in mind, though, that the odds are high that you will, at least, get a cold. So just be prepared so you aren’t thrown for loop when it happens. It’s never fun but it can be managed and it won’t last forever. This, too, shall pass.