13 Cold & Flu Prevention Tips
Feeling tired and achy with a telltale twinge at the back of your throat? Kids congested? Here’s how to cope with cold and flu symptoms and help keep your family healthy this season.
- Arm yourself with a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine each fall for everyone over six months old. The flu vaccine can help prevent flu – but if you do get it, your symptoms may be milder.
- Know your bug. First make sure it’s not allergies – rhinoviruses (colds) and allergies can look a lot alike. Colds and flu look similar, too, but the flu includes a fever, chills and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Call your doctor if you suspect you or your child may have it.
- Run away from viruses. Here’s (yet another) reason to exercise: Physically fit folks have fewer colds and the ones they do get end more quickly.
- Suds up. The gold standard for preventing virus transmission is as low-tech as it gets: Wash your hands! Lather up and rub your hands together for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" – twice. Afterwards, a rich moisturizer will offset the resulting dryness.
- Beware the doorknob – and other frequently handled surfaces, like computer keyboards, elevator buttons and stair rails. Frequent hand-washing is the antidote – and carry hand sanitizer on the go.
- Foil a fever, banish body aches. You can’t cure a virus, but over-the-counter analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflamatories (NSAIDS) can treat some of its worst symptoms, such as fever and body aches.
- Combat congestion. Does your head feel like its filled with cotton? A decongestant can combat this hallmark cold symptom. Chicken soup or a steaming mug of tea won’t hurt, either – research shows that hot liquids can help break up congestion.
- A spoonful of sugar – er, honey – helps. Studies show honey treats cough symptoms. It can be used for every family member older than 12 months, and it’s probably already in your pantry.
- Treat with kid gloves. For little ones, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends acetaminophen for fever, saline spray and a bulb syringe for stuffy noses, and a vaporizer to combat congestion.
- TLC is strong medicine. Sometimes just a little extra closeness can soothe your child’s symptoms. A cool forehead compress, a soothing lavender bath, and your loving presence go a long way to help your child feel better.
- Stay on top of infections. Colds and flu can lead to bronchial, sinus and ear infections. Antibiotics won’t help a cold or flu virus, but they can tackle a secondary infection, so if you think you’ve got one, call your doctor.
- Stay put. The CDC recommends staying home from school or the office until your fever is gone for 24 hours. The rest will do you good – and healthy people everywhere will thank you.
- Hang in there – it’s just a few days. Cold-weather colds tend to last five to seven days, but warm-weather versions can hang around for weeks. (That’s because summer rhinoviruses can be complicated by enterovirus, a similar but longer-lasting illness.) But this is cold weather season, so take heart – you’ll probably feel better in just a few days.