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Surviving Cold & Flu Season

Quiz by Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
If you think it's inevitable that you'll catch a bug this year and be under the weather for days on end, think again! There are lots of things you can do to prevent sickness, and decrease its severity. Test your cold and flu smarts here.

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1   What causes the common cold?


Explanation:
Specifically, the common cold is caused by one of 200 viruses. It is true that a weakened physical condition, which might be worsened by cold weather, can hurt your body's attempt to combat a virus, but cold weather doesn't cause colds.

1   How many colds does the average adult catch each year?


Explanation:
Adults usually catch a cold 2-4 times each year, but children can get sick more often, with about 6-10 colds per year.

1   True or False: Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces like doorknobs.


Explanation:
When a person sneezes or coughs, droplets that contain the virus can fly into the air. When you inhale the air-born droplets, you can catch a cold. But these viruses can live on surfaces and spread that way too. That's why hand washing and disinfecting communal surfaces are important practices year-round.

1   True or False: Eating chicken soup can help you recover from a cold.


Explanation:
There is a grain of truth to this practice. Chicken soup won't "cure" your cold, but it can help loosen nasal mucus and clear up congestion so you breathe a little easier. You can help yourself feel better in no time by following these Self-Care Tips for Sick Days.

1   True or False: Antibiotics can treat a cold or the flu.


Explanation:
When you come down with a cold or the flu, the last thing you should do is take an antibiotic. Most antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria, so they won't work against illnesses (like the cold or the flu) that are caused by viruses. Currently, no licensed antibiotics exist for fighting the common cold. Some prescription antibiotics (known as antiviral medications) are available and effective against the flu, but only if they're taken very early in the illness.

1   What is the best way to prevent the flu?


Explanation:
Many doctors and health experts agree that vaccination (the flu shot) is the best way to avoid the flu. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you're a good candidate for flu vaccination. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep can impair the effectiveness of the flu shot, so make sure you are well rested and caught up on any missed sleep before you get a vaccination. For more tips to beat the flu once you have it, click here.

1   Which of the following supplements can help prevent colds and the flu?


Explanation:
Although each of these substances have been linked to cold prevention in some studies, but the jury's still out on the best role for herbal and vitamin supplements. According to respected organizations (such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Lung Association), there is no conclusive evidence that supports the notion that taking large doses of vitamin C, zinc, or Echinacea will prevent colds. However, these nutrients may reduce the severity or duration of some symptoms. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

1   Which of the following can help reduce the length and severity of colds and flu?


Explanation:
There is no cure for the common cold or flu. But vitamin-rich fruits and veggies (dark green, red and yellow ones) can boost your body's resistance. So can adequate rest and plenty of fluids—especially water, which moistens mucous membranes and helps them fight off intruding viruses. Taking hot baths can be relaxing and soothe those flu aches, but it's not a good idea when you have a fever. Wondering about whether or not you can exercise when you're sick? Click here to find out.

1   What symptoms might indicate you have the flu as opposed to a cold?


Explanation:
Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the symptoms you're exhibiting indicate a cold or the flu. But in general, all of the characteristics above indicate the flu. Colds are characterized by nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing and sometimes a low-grade fever (under 100 degrees Fahrenheit). While a cold comes on gradually and mildly, the flu arises suddenly. The flu can cause cold-like symptoms like nasal and chest congestion, but it also results headaches, overall body aches, a high, persistent fever (102-104 degrees F), and exhaustion. It can take several weeks to recover from the flu. For more information, visit SparkPeople's Cold & Flu Survival Guide


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