Avoiding the Flu – A Holiday Season Gift that Keeps on Giving

Winter has officially started in the northern hemisphere and snow is fast approaching. Between apple cider and the influx of pumpkin spice there’s another trend that picks up this season: cold and flu. While it sounds obvious, the flu can be highly detrimental to those living with chronic conditions. So how can you protect yourself from colds or from the flu? Let’s find out!

 

  • Get vaccinated
    • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination as the best way to prevent contracting seasonal flus. Included in a list of those who should prioritize vaccination are children from 6 months to four years old and those over the age of 50. See the full CDC recommendation here.
    • Vaccines may not always be 100% effective, but they can significantly reduce your risk of flu or flu-related hospitalization by helping you stay healthier or suffer less severe symptoms if you do contract the flu. Most important? Getting your flu shot helps protect those around you, especially those that may not be able to get the vaccine due to their own health condition.

 

 

  • Know the Difference, and the Symptoms
    • Stuffy noses and rasping coughs are common symptoms of both the cold and the flu, so it can be difficult to tell the difference. According to the Scientific American, the symptoms are similar because both diseases are caused by viruses. The flu is the influenza virus and the common cold is caused by either adenovirus or coronavirus. But while the cause and spreading mechanism is similar, there are key differences when it comes to symptoms. Influenza, or the flu, is often coupled with fever, muscle aches, and a feeling of fatigue. These symptoms are usually absent with the common cold.
    • If you, or someone in your care, is managing a chronic condition and falls ill with the flu, you can consult a doctor on how to best manage the symptoms.

 

 

  • Understand your Risk Level
    • Certain chronic conditions can make you more susceptible to the flu. These conditions include autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis), cancer, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS. Additionally, many medications prescribed to treat or manage these conditions can lower the immune system’s ability to protect the body from invaders like the influenza virus.

 

 

  • Keep a Safe Distance
    • When you understand the symptoms, and your own risk level, you’ll know what to look for. If you spot someone with the cold, or the flu, do your best to steer clear. A sneeze, cough, or even normal speech can carry droplets of fluid with the virus up to six feet away. If you are the primary caregiver for someone with a chronic condition, particularly someone who may be immunocompromised, work out an action plan in case of illness.