Preventing colds and flu

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Cold and flu season typically runs from November until April, with the season’s peak in December through February. Having a flu shot, practicing preventive measures and being prepared to provide supportive care will minimize illness. 


More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, with symptoms that include a sore throat, runny nose, chest congestion and cough. A cold usually develops over one to four days, and lasts seven to 10 days. The period of contagion is generally from the day before symptoms start to seven days later. Normally, a cold sufferer does not run a high fever nor have body aches. 


Infection can be from one of several influenza viruses, with symptoms that include sore throat, congestion, headache, chills and coughing. Nausea and vomiting are possible. The flu can come on within hours with major symptoms lasting for a week, although the associated fatigue may continue for several weeks. The period of contagion is from the day before symptoms begin until up to two weeks after. Flu sufferers often have a fever, with temps of 100 degrees or more, and an ache-all-over feeling. 

Preventive Measures 

The VNA, CDC and DOH recommend every person over the age of six months receive a flu vaccination, unless your physician cites reasons not to be immunized. Other preventive measures, effective against either the cold or flu virus, include: 

Wash your hands often with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, the entryway for germs. 

Keep surfaces germ free with disinfectants. 

Avoid contact with sick people. Use a mask around ill people or when traveling. 

Discard used tissues in the trash and wash your hands. 

If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others until you are both healthy and beyond the contagion period. 

Maintain a lifestyle that supports your immune system: healthy diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, fresh air, stress management. 

Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, especially water. 

Don’t smoke. 

Avoid refined sugar, it compromises your immune system. 

Maintain an adequate Vitamin D3 level. 

Support When Sick 

Use over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms but avoid products that treat multiple symptoms as it’s easy to overmedicate. 

If prescribed by your doctor, use the antiviral meds to shorten the length of illness. 

Stay hydrated, especially with water. Drink hot liquids to help thin mucus, soothe irritated membranes. 

Get lots of sleep and rest. 

Blow nose often to keep mucus flowing. 

Take a steamy shower or Epsom salt bath, or use a humidifier. 

Use hot or cold packs over sinuses. 

There is no guaranteed way to avoid colds and flu but maintaining a healthy life style and getting the flu shot will go a long way in preventing them. 

Editor’s Note: Ms. Frodermann writes for the Farmington Valley VNA.