This winter, the only thing you want running is your heater, not your nose.
But with flu and cold viruses spreading faster during the winter months than a fluffy marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate, it’s easy to get infected with the flu or a cold by just the simplest action. While there’s no 100% effective measure to prevent getting sick, there are steps the CDC recommends to reduce your chances.
- Get a flu shot. The best time to get the flu vaccine is when it becomes available in your community, but getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all. The young, those older than age 65 and the chronically ill are most at risk for complications from seasonal flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older. Two things to remember: Flu shots don't cause the flu, and getting a flu shot won't protect you against the common cold – or COVID-19.
- Wash your hands often. The viruses that cause colds and seasonal flu are spread by droplets, usually when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The virus enters your body through your nose or mouth, or from your hands after you have touched an object contaminated with the virus. For instance, if you share a phone or a computer keyboard, or touch public door handles, and put your hands near your face, the virus could enter your mouth or nose. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water is best for cleaning viruses off your hands. If you don't have access to soap and water, consider carrying an alcohol-based hand cleaner with you.
- Use tissues, then toss them. Don't stuff used tissues back in your pocket. Throw them away.
- Avoid contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if you are sick to prevent spreading your illness. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
- Practice good health habits. The CDC recommends that you follow general recommendations to stay healthy. These suggestions include getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food.
Flu Season and COVID-19
Patients should get their flu shot at their most convenient source, either through Primary Care, Urgent Care or their closest pharmacy.
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two. While more is learned every day, there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it.
While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. It is possible have flu (as well as other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are still studying how common this can be.
Get vaccinated before peak flu season hits by scheduling your appointment online today.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jan 31, 2014.