Fall is the onset of the holiday season, and is also known for its influx of colds and influenza (commonly known as the flu). Although colds and the flu are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by two different viruses (CDC 2016). Cold and flu symptoms are similar, although cold symptoms are usually milder. Both cold and flu symptoms may include a fever or feeling feverish, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (CDC 2016). Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, whereas the flu can cause mild or serious illnesses resulting in hospitalization. However, typical flu victims recover in several days to 2 weeks. Young children, those over the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic illnesses (e.g., asthma, heart disease, blood, liver, or kidney disorders) are more susceptible to complications (CDC 2016).
An infected person can spread the flu by coughing, sneezing, or talking. It is less common, although not impossible, for a person to contract the virus by touching an infected surface or object, then touching his/her own mouth or nose (CDC 2016). If you or a loved one are affected by the flu, remember that it is contagious. Adults can be contagious 1 day before symptoms appear and up to 7 days after becoming sick. This means that the virus can spread to others before an infected person knows they are sick!
More importantly, the common cold and flu can be prevented. Use the following tips to prevent contracting and spreading the common cold and flu.
- Get a yearly flu vaccine. Vaccines prompt the body to produce antibodies to help fight the virus and its symptoms.
- Stay hydrated. Water helps strengthen your immune system, flushes out the toxins, and aids in keeping a cold and flu away. An adult should consume approximately eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids each day (Clorox, ND). If your urine is nearly clear, you are consuming enough water; if your urine is yellow, you should drink more water.
- Wash your hands. Cold and flu viruses can spread by indirect contact (e.g., an infected person coughs or sneezes in their hand, touches a doorknob, and a coworker opens the same door and starts eating without first washing their hands) (Clorox, ND).
- Cough and sneeze into your forearm or shoulder. By averting your face when you cough or sneeze, you prevent the virus from spreading through the air, covering your hands, and being transferred to another surface.
- Disinfect common surfaces. The cold and flu virus can survive up to 72 hours on any surface (Clorox, ND). Use disinfecting products on keyboards, remotes, doorknobs, and light switches.
- Stay home. If you display symptoms of the flu, stay home to prevent spreading the virus to coworkers.
For more information, visit https://www.clorox.com/cleaning-and-laundry-tips/healthier-home/cold-and-flu/flu-facts/ or http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm
Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 2016. Influenza (Flu): Cold Versus Flu. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm
Clorox. n.d.. Cold & Flu: Flu Prevention Tips. Available from: