When cold and flu season strikes, millions of Americans find themselves coughing, sneezing, congested, aching, uncomfortable – and sometimes, downright miserable. The widespread prevalence of these symptoms sweeps the country each year and affects people of all ages.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans suffer from one billion colds annually. While adults catch an average of two to three colds per year, children suffer even more, especially during cold season.
“The cold and flu are both highly contagious viral infections,” said Dr. Keri Peterson, a Manhattan-based physician. “While they spread easily, there are some easy measures that families can take to protect themselves from getting infected, and even while they are sick, to prevent prolonged illness and recover more quickly.”
To protect you and your family, and to prevent the spread of illness, Peterson offers these tips for navigating cold and flu season:
1. Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after touching dirty surfaces like doorknobs and keyboards. Thorough washing should take as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
2. Don’t Touch Your Face
Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. These are direct entry points for germs. Most adults touch their face about 16 times a day, and children even more often, increasing the spread of germs.
3. Disinfect Regularly
Germs live on surfaces and spread to humans through skin contact, so anything that you touch frequently can be a threat. Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down your workspace daily, as well as your telephone, mouse and keyboard. Make sure you regularly disinfect doorknobs and shared electronics like TV remotes. Also, wash your children’s toys after playtime.
4. Use a Humidifier
Studies indicate flu viruses thrive best in cold and dry places, making winter air an ideal breeding ground. Use a humidifier to keep humidity levels in your home between 40 and 60 percent to reduce viruses’ chances at survival. Humidifiers can also help relieve cold and flu symptoms and discomfort. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends using a cool mist humidifier throughout the winter months to help relieve congestion and cough in children.
5. Get a Flu Shot
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccination should take place soon after the vaccine becomes available to the public, preferably in October.
6. Watch Your Symptoms
Cold symptoms come on gradually and progress over time, typically starting with a sore throat, then a runny nose and eventually a cough. On the other hand, the flu hits fast and furious with the sudden onset of fever, aches, fatigue, cough and headache.
7. Take Your Temperature
Fever can sometimes occur with a cold and is usually mild; with the flu it is common and higher, ranging from 100-102 F.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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