Every fall and winter, the United States can usually count on two things: snowy weather and stuffy noses. Cold and flu season typically runs from October to March, and this is for a few reasons: the flu virus thrives in cold, dry air, and the winter is when we are most likely to be huddled indoors with friends and family allowing for easy spreading of germs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nature of cold and flu season unexpectedly shifted. Because of all the masks, distancing, and other precautions to prevent COVID-19, the United States saw a steep decline in flu cases.
This year, however, with the optimism surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, people may not be as strict regarding health and safety measures as last year. Experts also believe that because influenza cases were so low last cold and flu season, most people lack the basic immunity to keep them protected this year.
Whatever the reason, it’s essential to prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season, ensuring that you’re taking the proper precautions to keep safe and healthy all winter long. Brickmont Assisted Living, with assisted living communities throughout the Atlanta, Georgia area, is sharing some tips on how to stay safe this cold and flu season.
What’s the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?
Both the common cold and the flu are caused by a respiratory virus that impacts the airways. A cold and the flu are different, and the flu is overall worse than the common cold; however, they have very similar symptoms. Sometimes, the only way to tell the difference is with a special test.
A cold will typically present a cough, runny nose, and a sore throat, while the flu might include fever or chills, aches and pains, and fatigue. Another difference is that a cold usually comes on slowly, while the flu is more abrupt.
While there are no medications that can “cure” either a cold or the flu, many over-the-counter medicines can help manage symptoms and ease discomfort. It’s also important to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
As we witnessed in the 2020-2021 cold and flu season, the single best way to prevent major illnesses during winter is to practice good health habits. By now, we are all accustomed to “6 feet apart” measures and “no-contact” services, and these will be crucial in preventing other illnesses during cold and flu season. Here are some essential health tips to follow:
- Wash your hands. One of the most enjoyable things that came out of the pandemic was the creative ways people timed their hand-washing. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. If you get tired of humming this song, people found alternative songs with a similar 20-second chorus, like “Jolene” by Dolly Parton or “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And don’t forget to wash your hands after!
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is how germs can get inside your body.
- Avoid close contact or sharing personal items. If you or someone else is sick, try to keep your distance and avoid close contact. Even if you are not sick, it is a good idea to keep personal items (like utensils, toothbrushes, and drinking bottles) to yourself.
Aside from basic health practices and hygiene, other habits can not only prevent colds and cases of flu but can keep you healthy all year long.
- Get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep can impact your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching a virus like the common cold. Experts recommend getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables. A healthy balanced diet that is high in vitamins and nutrients can help boost the immune system. Specific foods to include are dark leafy greens, eggs, and salmon.
- Exercise regularly. Staying physically active is good for your overall health and wellness, including helping the body fight viruses and diseases.
- Manage stress. There is an association between chronic stress and physical illness, so properly managing feelings of stress can support your mental health and your immune system.
Fight Off Illness This Cold and Flu Season
Nobody likes getting a cold, and getting the flu is downright dangerous for many. Fortunately, staying healthy and preventing wintertime illness can be done by practicing good health habits during winter and living a healthy lifestyle all year round.
Brickmont Assisted Living has assisted living communities throughout Atlanta, Georgia, and we are dedicated to promoting education and information about senior health. For more tips about health habits and senior wellness, we encourage you to visit our blog! And don’t forget to share this article with someone who might find it helpful!