It’s that time of year again when we see lots of reminders about flu shots, and cold remedies are being stocked in display counters along with Christmas items. Yes, it seems a bit too early for holiday decorations, but we've already had flu and cold outbreaks in my community.
Having a cold and/or flu can be a very unwelcome complication to anyone affected by a chronic condition. Therefore, it’s important to do what you can to prevent becoming infected and take care of yourself if you develop one or the other.
WAYS TO PREVENT COLD AND FLU: The Basics-Cover & Wash
• Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue and throw it away. Use your arm (not your hand).
• Observe regular cleaning habits if someone at home has the flu. Pay special attention to doorknobs, faucets, refrigerator handles, phones, smartphones and toys.
• Vaccinate. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot. Flu vaccines are available in a number of locations, including your provider’s office. To find the closest place for a flu shot, go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder. High dose shots are now available for older people. The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine before the end of October but still can be given even into January or later. Yes, you can get vaccinated when you have a cold as long as you are not feeling very sick and do not have a fever. Learn more about the 2017/2018 flu.
• Every time you use a tissue, throw it in the trash and then wash your hands. Skip the antibacterial stuff as it may contribute to the rise in antibiotic resistant bugs.
• Remember not to share anything that goes into the mouth.
• Wash your hands often and well. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Skip the antibacterial soaps as regular soap and water works fine.
• Avoid contact with sick people.
• Stay home when you are sick. It is important to stay home when you are most contagious. For colds, you are contagious the entire time you have symptoms, but you are most contagious right after you contract the viral infection, before you even have symptoms. For the flu, adults are most infectious from the day before symptoms start until about the fifth day of symptoms
• Have alcohol hand sanitizer on hand if you don’t have access to soap and water.
Other ways to prevent cold and flu:
• Get plenty of sleep-at least six or more hours a day.
• Get sufficient Vitamin D. The sun is a lot less effective in providing Vitamin D during the winter months-peak time for colds and flu-so take a supplement
• Take Exercise Breaks
• Skip the handshake. Fist bumps and elbow bumps are replacing handshakes during cold and flu season. If your really hip, the ‘Namaste’ bow is becoming very popular- put your hands together at chest level, make eye contact and give a little bow
In the Work Place: In addition to practicing Cover & Wash, consider the following
• Use Paper Towels to clean work spaces as they do a better job than sponges and cleaning cloths used previously.
• Use Disinfectant Spray to clean doorknobs, handles, light switches, phones, computer mice, railings, microwave, coffee maker handle, elevator buttons and escalator rails. Note that viruses can live up to 48 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces. Identify the germ “hot spots” in your office and make sure they are regularly cleaned.
• Use Hand Sanitizer: Reduce transferring nasty cold and flu germs by using hand sanitizer and using hand sanitizer wipes to clean public surfaces, such as keyboards.
• Don’t share your pens with colleagues as these can be particularly dirty. Helps to carry a pen or two in your pocket.
• Ask your manager to supply the office with the necessary tools to keep the workplace healthy.
• Stay home when you are sick
At Home: In addition to practicing Cover & Wash, consider the following:
• Create a “sick room” where the person who is sick can have all the things they need.
• Sanitize shared items
• Take care of yourself so your resistance isn’t lowered
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE THE COLD OR FLU
• Know the difference between cold and flu. Flu symptoms can feel like a cold with nasal congestion, headaches, cough, aches, and general tiredness. However, a common cold rarely has symptoms of fever above 101 degrees. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu than a cold. In general cold symptoms are much milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
• If you think you have the flu, call your provider: Your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment or they may choose to use an influenza diagnostic test. Antiviral drugs can be given to shorten the duration of the flu and to prevent serious complications like pneumonia.
• Alternating Pain Relievers: Talk to your doctor about alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen every four to six hours to help lower your fever and reduce aching.
• Time, fluids and rest are important so stay home and take care of yourself. You have permission to binge watch your favorite series on Hulu or Netflixs.
IF YOU THINK YOUR DEVELOPING A COLD OR FLU
• Drink plenty of water: The best way to tell if you are getting enough is that your urine will be a pale yellow. If it gets darker, drink up.
• Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, more might be better. Adequate rest is just as important as staying hydrated.
• Vitamin C-This may or may not be appropriate for you. A 2013 review of 29 randomized trials with more than 11,000 participants found that among extremely active people—such as marathon runners, skiers, and Army troops doing heavy exercise in subarctic conditions—taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C every day appeared to cut the risk of getting a cold in half. But for the general population, taking daily vitamin C did not reduce the risk of getting a cold. More encouraging: taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C per day did appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children, which translated to about one less day of illness.
• Zinc: Research has turned up mixed results about zinc and colds. An analysis of several studies showed that zinc lozenges or syrup reduced the length of a cold by one day, especially when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold. Zinc may be more effective when taken in lozenge or syrup form. Note that Zinc does have side effects and it can interact with various other prescriptions. Talk to your provider before taking Zinc.