5 Best Practices for Preventing Illnesses This Cold and Flu Season

It’s that time of year, and unfortunately, we aren’t referring to the holiday season. We are referring to that scratch you might feel in the back of your throat or the fever your child wakes up in the middle of the night. The dreaded cold and flu season is never fun, especially when you or your child are the ones fighting off the illness.

On average, adults get about two to four colds a year, and kids can get it eight times or more. Meanwhile, adults typically get the flu twice per decade, while children contract the virus every other year. 

This is all to say, don’t be alarmed if you or your kids feel under the weather a few times throughout the year, especially during the winter months and back-to-school season

Understanding the Difference Between a Cold vs. the Flu

Everyone has had a cold at some point in their life. A common cold that doesn’t require a visit to the doctor is usually signified by a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, and congestion. While it can last up to two weeks, symptoms usually clear up in one. Since there is no cure for the common cold and antibiotics are ineffective unless there’s a bacterial infection, it’s usually at-home care that is needed.

If you’re concerned about being contagious, the time period is usually two to three days; however, the best practice is to avoid close contact with others until the symptoms pass.

Cold symptoms are unpleasant, but if you encounter these additional symptoms, you might be dealing with the flu (influenza) instead:

  • Sudden fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Severe body aches and muscle pain
  • Chills and sweats
  • Cough or sore throat

The moment you feel like you have more than a cold or if your symptoms persist or worsen, contact your primary care doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment (whether it be at-home care, prescription, or otherwise). 

As well, you should visit your doctor if you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms: 

  • Coughing up a lot of mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual tiredness/fatigue
  • Inability to keep foods/liquids down
  • Increase head, throat, or chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • High fever 
  • Stomach pain

If you’re unsure whether the symptoms you’re experiencing require medical attention, you can always call your doctor and have a quick virtual consultation. 

If symptoms become severe or you can’t get a timely appointment with your doctor, you can visit your local ER Near Me for treatment.

To learn more about common cold symptoms and prevention methods, check out our blog: Treating the Common Cold and When to Visit Your Doctor for Symptoms.

How to Stay Healthy This Cold and Flu Season

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to the cold and flu season. While the common cold is titled “common” for a reason, there are ways you can minimize how often you catch one and the transfer of it.

1. Wash your hands frequently and before and after all meals.

Simple hygiene measures are often all it takes to prevent catching a virus or infection. Washing your hands well is one of the best ways to keep any virus at bay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends scrubbing for at least 20 seconds each time. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Need help explaining germs to your kids and the importance of proper handwashing? Check out our blog: How to Explain Germs & Illnesses to Your Kids.

2. Eat more lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains.

One of the best ways to prevent illness is to ensure your body receives adequate nutrition. Staying away from fatty foods and sugars and instead choosing more lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can help build up your body’s natural defenses.

For a straightforward list, you can tack up in your pantry or stick to your fridge, download our free checklist of the best foods to eat when you have a cold.

3. Get adequate sleep each night to reset and recharge.

Getting the recommended amount of 7-9 hours of sleep each night is about more than making sure you are productive the next day. Getting adequate sleep each night is also vital for your immune system. Your body slows down when it’s tired; this makes it difficult to fight off illness. It’s also important to set good sleep as a priority and remember its importance to your mental and physical health. 

4. Take time to de-stress and relax.

Similar to how the symptoms of a virus or flu can be extremely taxing on your body, so can stress and anxiety on your mental health. Stress also disrupts your immune system, so do what you can to relax. For example, you can try relaxing yoga, meditation, reading a book, taking a 20-minute nap, going for a walk, or relaxing with a bubble bath.

5. Drink plenty of fluids.

It’s no secret that hydration is critical for your health in general, especially when you are feeling under the weather. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, so staying hydrated is crucial for all functions — including your immune system. 

Staying hydrated can help you avoid fatigue, headaches, and improve your productivity. We recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. 

How to Relieve Cold and Flu Symptoms

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are experiencing some cold and flu symptoms. Be sure to call your primary care doctor for an accurate diagnosis. If you do have a cold, you can try some of these tips to help minimize your cold and flu symptoms while you recover:

  • Treat your fever and aches with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Stay home and get plenty of rest
  • Ease your breathing by turning on a hot shower and spending time in the steamed-up bathroom
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier if your indoor environment is dry
  • Drink plenty of fluids

Want to learn more about cold and flu prevention tips? Download our free one-page PDF on Flu Season Tips, Advice & Stats!

ERNM March Offer Flu Season Tips