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13 Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

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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.

13 Cold & Flu Prevention Tips
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Run away from viruses. Here’s (yet another) reason to exercise: Physically fit folks have fewer colds that end more quickly.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Foil a fever, banish body aches. You can’t cure a virus, but over-the-counter analgesics and nonsteroidal antiinflamatories (NSAIDS) can treat some of its worst symptoms, such as fever and body aches.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

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