The Top 5 Ways To Avoid a Winter Bug Are:
- Get vaccinated against the flu. This year this means get vaccinated for the regular seasonal flu and the H1N1 influenza. The best time to get a flu vaccination is in October through November, but getting it in December and January is not too late. Talk with your doctor before getting vaccinated if you have allergies, especially if you are allergic to eggs.
- Practice good hygiene and be relentless with hand washing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend washing your hands with warm, soapy water for about 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Limit your exposure to infected people. Colds and flu are contagious through coughing, sneezing and contaminated surfaces. Do not take unnecessary risks especially with newborns, or people with suppressed immune systems.
- Minimize your stress. Stress wears on our immune system and reduces your bodies’ ability to fight off viruses. Try to reduce stress or at least learn to manage it.
- Practice good healthy habits. Eat well, sleep well and exercise regularly. Most importantly if you are sick, stay home.
Generally people feel worse with the flu than a cold. Both may have a fever, but it will be higher with the flu. Coughing is present with both but it may have a yellow to green sputum with a cold and will be dry and hacking with the flu. Body aches and fatigue are common with both but chills are unique to the flu. A stuffy nose and sneezing are more typical with a cold than with the flu but they might be present in both. Finally a headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are not common with a cold but are common with the flu. Find a chart comparing cold and flu symptoms at my Friday Flu Blog: When should I seek Medical Help.
For either bug, it is important to seek emergency medical attention if your symptoms become severe and includes significant chest pain, shortness of breath or feeling faint.