COLD AND FLU PREVENTION
Cold Symptoms or allergies?
Allergy symptoms almost never cause general aches and pains or fever. On the other hand, cold symptoms rarely include itchy eyes, which are common allergy symptoms.1
Is It a Cold or the Flu?
Though cold and flu symptoms are often similar, tell-tale signs that you could be suffering from the flu are if you have a fever and the symptoms appear suddenly.2
Treat Allergies to Help Reduce Daytime Sleepiness
In 2006, a French study3 showed that allergies daytime fatigue, headache at awakening despite a normal night’s sleep
Add Humidity to Fight Flu and Cold Viruses
Flu and cold viruses can often thrive in dry, cool air during winters4. Keeping your indoor humidity at a balanced level can help slow the spread of these viruses. Plus, it can help maintain a more comfortable environment for you and your family. Consider a humidifier to help you make it through cold and flu season.
CLEAN AND HEALTHY
Keep Your Humidifier Clean
During the winter months—the height of cold and flu season—changing the water in your humidifier daily may help in keeping your home healthier. Regularly cleaning your humidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions is also advisable.
Keep your things and surroundings clean
All the objects you use regularly can harbor cold and flu germs too. Get into the habit of cleaning the stuff you share with others, such as computer keyboards, phones, remote controls, countertops, and more, to prevent the spread of cold and flu.5,
Follow Hand Washing Basics
Hand-washing is so important that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made official guidelines on the topic. The CDC advises you to wash with soap and water, while scrubbing vigorously for at least 20 seconds.6
Know When to Wash Your Hands
To help prevent the spread of cold and flu germs, it is important to wash your hands at the following times: before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, before and after treating a cut, and after petting an animal.6
Soap can be a great weapon against bacteria and germs. Feel free to use regular soap with water to wash your hands often. Keeping your hands clean and germ-free can help prevent you catching cold.6
Be Aware That a Flu Vaccine Won’t Protect You from a Cold
Getting a flu vaccination before flu season protects only against some pathogens of influenza predicted to be common for that particular flu season.7 So, while the vaccine may offer you protection from some influenza viruses that are expected to be common in the upcoming season, it cannot protect you from all. Washing your hands often with soap and water is one easy way to help prevent catching cold and flu.8
Take cover from Coughs and Sneezes
Respiratory viruses spread in three ways:9
- Through small droplets that are aerosolized by coughs or sneezes. These droplets do not settle and can carry germs over relatively long distances through the air that others can inhale.
- Through large droplets that are similarly transmitted through the air over relatively short distances and settle rapidly on objects and body parts.
- Through direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces.
Sleep Off a Cold
Not getting at least eight hours of sound sleep decreases your immune system’s ability to fight off a cold. Try to get a consistent seven to eight hours of good, quality sleep every night.10
Chill in the air? Don’t let it worry you.
Cold weather doesn’t give you a cold or flu, viruses do.10 However, spending more time indoors with other people during the cold season increases the likelihood you will be exposed to cold and flu viruses,11 especially because cold and flu viruses tend to thrive in the dry conditions that are typical in this season.4 You may breathe more germ-infested air, which can contribute to why you get sick more often in the winter.
Use Antibiotics Appropriately
Unless you are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, avoid asking a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for cold or flu symptoms. Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria and therefore are ineffective in treating viral infections resulting from cold and flu viruses.12 In fact, the CDC warns that taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.13
Fight Off Germs While Travelling
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you only travel when you feel well, especially in the winter season.14 You can keep germs at bay by washing your hands often with soap and water when available.6 It may be wise to carry a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, for use when regular soap and water aren’t available or convenient.6
Be Patient—We Get Well Gradually
Generally speaking, a cold can last up to seven to ten days. With some symptoms, such as a cough, they can last even longer.2 On these occasions, it may help greatly to use Vicks® over-the-counter flu, cough, and cold medicines to help relieve flu and cold symptoms. However, if you don’t start to feel better after about a week, or your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.
- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Is it a cold or an allergy? Available at: www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/allergicdiseases/documents/coldallergy.pdf. Accessed 12 January 2015.
- Eccles R. Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2005 Nov; 5(11):718-725.
- Leger D et al. Allergic rhinitis and its consequences on quality of sleep: An unexplored area. Archives of Internal Medicine. September 2006;18;166(16):1744-1748.
- Lowen AC, Mubareka S, Steel J, Palese P. Influenza virus transmission is dependent on relative humidity and temperature. PLoS Pathogens. 2007 Oct 19; 3(10):1470-6. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17953482.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How To Clean and Disinfect Schools To Help Slow the Spread of Flu. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm. Accessed March 2015.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Handwashing: clean hands save lives. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing. Accessed 13 January 2015.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/Flu/protect/keyfacts.htm Accessed 5 April 2015.
- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Common cold prevention. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/commoncold/Pages/default.aspx Accessed 13 January 2015.
- Turner RB. The common cold. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009: Chapter 53.
- Cohen S, Doyle W, Cuneyt A, et al. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009:169(1): 62-67.
- Finkelman BS, Viboud C, Koelle K, et al. Global patterns in seasonal activity of influenza A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B from 1997 to 2005: viral coexistence and latitudinal gradients. PLoS One. 2007 Dec 12; 2(12):1-10: e1296. Available at: .
- National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Common cold. Available at: . Accessed 21st Sept 2015.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Antibiotics aren't always the answer. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/GetSmart/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu-free, healthy travel this winter. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/WinterTravel/. Accessed March 2015.