Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

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Colds, influenza, stomach “flu” and other ailments are more common in the winter months, that's why we talked with Dr. Jeff Hunt a Sanford Urgent Care Physician about how to keep your family healthy. The first thing is knowing the difference between a cold and the flu.

-Colds: Colds are caused by any one of several viruses that causes inflammation of the membranes that line the nose and throat. It can result from any one of more than 200 different viruses. But, the rhinoviruses causes most colds.
▪ The common cold is very easily spread to others. It's often spread through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by the sick person. The droplets are then inhaled by another person. Colds can also be spread when a sick person touches you or a surface (like a doorknob) that you then touch.

-Flu: Influenza (Flu) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi.
▪ Main symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, bad cough and fever. If there is no fever, your child probably doesn't have flu.
▪ More muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than with usual colds
• Contrary to popular belief, cold weather or being chilled doesn't cause a cold or flu. However, more colds do occur during the cold season (early fall to late winter). This is probably due to a variety of factors, including:
-Schools are in session, increasing the risk for exposure to the virus
-People stay more indoors and are in closer proximity to each other
-Low humidity, causing dry nasal passages which are more susceptible to cold viruses

It can be difficult to know what you’re dealing with, but here’s an overview of symptoms:

-Colds and flus both can have runny nose, congestion, sneezing, minor body aches and fever.
-High fevers and chills are the sign you likely have the flu.
-The common cold can come on slowly -- sore throat, sneezing, cough, fever -- while the flu is rapid in onset. The onset of flu is also often accompanied by severe body aches,
weakness and sometimes skin sensitivity.

So if you have the flu what should you do?
- It's important to take fever-reducing medications, stay at home and away from other family members as best possible, rest, and most importantly -- hydrate. Hydration can be with plain water or with broth, which helps nourish the body, too. That old standby, chicken soup, can work wonders.
- If your symptoms persist and escalate, seek medical attention immediately. Influenza can lead to respiratory complications like pneumonia, to even something more fatal.
- Antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) must be started within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms to have an impact.
- The recommendation is they be used for any patient with severe symptoms AND for most HIGH-RISK children. They are not typically recommended LOW-RISK children with mild flu symptoms.

What to do if you have a cold?
- Currently, there is no medicine available to cure or shorten the duration of the common cold. However, the following are some treatments that may help to relieve some
symptoms of the cold:
▪ Over-the-counter cold medicines, such as decongestants and cough medicine
▪ Over-the-counter antihistamines (medicine that helps dry up nasal secretions and suppress coughing)
▪ Rest
▪ Increased fluid intake
▪ Pain relievers for headache or fever
▪ Warm, salt water gargling for sore throat
▪ Petroleum jelly for raw, chapped skin around the nose and lips
▪ Warm steam for congestion

Because colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics don't work. Antibiotics are only effective when given to treat bacterial infections.

Where are the cold and flu germs hiding in your home?
- You might think of public restrooms as scary breeding grounds for germs, but two everyday items can spread colds and the flu as fast as a bathroom doorknob.
- They're your phone and your computer. More germs reside on these two items than on most any toilet seat.
- Most of the germs on your phone come from your own hands and mouth. But you can also pick up germs by putting down your cell phone in a public place or by sharing your computer with others.
- To minimize germs, don't share your cell phone and get in the habit of periodically wiping it off with antibacterial wipes or rubbing alcohol.
- On your computer, the keyboard and mouse are the worst germ offenders. That's why cleaning your computer the right way is a must. Start by shutting it down and unplugging it. Next, turn over the keyboard and shake out any dust or crumbs. Then wipe down each computer component with disinfectant wipes.
- Remember that these steps are in addition to getting an annual flu shot, steering clear of people who are ill and, to protect others, covering your nose and mouth if you're sick and sneezing.
- You can't get rid of all the germs in your life, but these simple steps can help you stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season.

How can you keep your family healthy?
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on your desk or with you at all times. After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose,
wash your hands or rub sanitizer into them until they are dry. Clean your hands after using public transportation or conference room equipment.
- When soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based throwaway hand wipes or gel sanitizers. Those that work contain at least 60% alcohol. If using a gel, rub it into your hands until they are dry.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands.
- Keep your work surface clean. Use a household disinfectant to wipe down your desk, keyboard, mouse, telephone, and other objects you touch often. Follow the directions on the label.
- If possible, don’t use coworkers’ offices, desks, or supplies. If you must use them, wipe them down with disinfectant first.
- Get the flu vaccine if you haven’t already.