Cold and flu season officially kicks off in October. You might think that you know all there is to know about colds and the flu – after all, they’re both viruses with similar symptoms. And, of course, they can both be a huge pain. However, colds and the flu have several important distinctions – distinctions that you need to keep in mind to stay healthy this season. So, what’s your cold and flu IQ?
What’s Your Cold and Flu IQ?
True or False: You’re More Susceptible to Colds and the Flu in the Winter.
True! There’s a reason that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dubbed the colder months the official “cold and flu season.” On average, the first major spike of flu cases begins in October, peaking during the height of winter. The flu thrives in winter, surviving longer and easily jumping from person to person in the cold, dry air. Since the flu virus is more durable during colder temperatures, it sticks to surfaces, too – meaning that after someone coughs into their hand and touches a doorknob, the virus may linger on the surface until it gets picked up by another hand and makes someone else sick.
True or False: The Flu is Basically a Severe Cold.
This one is false. Although cold and flu season take place around the same time, the flu tends to be much worse than a cold. Unlike a cold, the flu can lead to severe health problems like pneumonia, especially in children and older people. If left untreated, it can even cause death. Colds and the flu share many symptoms, however, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Flu symptoms include a fever, chills, coughing, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches, and fatigue. Cold symptoms are usually milder, typically including a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and headaches. But should symptoms persist, it is best to see a doctor.
Generally, someone suffering from a cold or the flu will start to feel better in three to five days. Within a week (or two at the most), with rest and hydration, you should be feeling like yourself again.
Most people won’t visit the doctor for a cold, but the flu is a different story. Since the flu can result in serious complications, it’s important to get treated as soon as possible if any of the following characteristics apply (source):
- Younger than 12 months or older than 64 years of age
- Pregnant or have recently given birth
- Younger than 19 years of age and receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- Suffering from a chronic health condition (heart disease, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, etc.)
- Suffering from a weakened immune system
- Having a BMI of 40 or greater
- Living in a hospital or long-term care facility
True or False: Flu Vaccines Don’t Matter That Much.
This one is definitely false. Getting the flu shot reduces your risk of coming down with the flu by 40 to 60 percent. If you think the stakes aren’t that high, think again – yes, even if you’re afraid of needles. During the winter of 2017, more than 80,000 Americans died of the flu. And as we discussed previously, the flu can lead to serious complications. It’s important to protect yourself, your family, and your community with an annual flu vaccination.
True or False: You Can Boost Your Immune System.
True! While your body will never become 100 percent immune to germs, it is possible to boost your immune system. There are several steps you can take to reduce your susceptibility to colds and the flu:
- Avoid smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
- Do your best to limit stress.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Take supplements to stave off micronutrient deficiencies. Boosting your consumption of micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron, and vitamin A can go a long way toward boosting your immune system.
- Exercise frequently and maintain a healthy weight.
- Wash your hands frequently, and carry hand sanitizer when you’re on the go.
During cold and flu season, having a high cold and flu IQ is only part of the battle. Make sure you and your family are prepared: Arm yourselves with hand sanitizer, germ foggers, and, of course, your annual flu vaccination.
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