Cold and Flu Season is Just around the Corner

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you’re like me, the change of seasons brings a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the warmer weather months, but it also brings the dreaded cold and flu season.

Have you ever wondered why the flu is much more prevalent during the winter months than at any other time of the year? The reason--the virus responsible for this ailment is more stable in a cold, dry environment and tends to remain in the air longer in these conditions than in an environment where the air is warm and moist.

While we can’t always prevent catching a cold or the flu, there are a few preventative measures we can take to avoid the onslaught of these illnesses.

  • Get a flu shot! Those who need to get one are the elderly, children between the age of 6 months and 5 years and anyone suffering from a chronic disease. If you are not too sure if you should take one, please don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider. Also, make sure you take the flu vaccine before you are exposed. It takes a few weeks for your body to build the antibodies responsible to fight the bug, so timing is very important. And just because you took the flu vaccine last year does NOT mean you don’t need to take it again this year. The flu strains change from season to season, so last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s strain.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water! I don’t know how many times we need to be reminded, but washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to prevent the transmission of the flu and/or cold viruses. That being said, it takes at least 20 seconds of a good washing to kill the germs. The standard is to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” twice before rinsing.
  • If you do not have access to soap or water, it is not a bad idea to carry a small bottle of sanitizing gel with you.
  • Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or higher and don’t hesitate to add some humidity in the air. As mentioned earlier, the flu bug loves a cold, dry environment.
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeves! As crazy as this sounds, kids today are being taught to sneeze and cough into their sleeves to prevent the transmission of germs. Many schools are now teaching their students how to do just that.
  • Dispose of all tissues immediately after use. Dirty tissues left on any surface can transmit the germs for up to 2 hours on that surface, therefore leaving the germs just waiting to be picked up by any unsuspecting person.
  • Make sure you do not scrimp on your R and R. Sleep plays an important role in helping the body keep its immune system in tip top shape.
  • While there is no cure for the common cold or flu, staying hydrated is essential to the healing process. Some studies have suggested that green tea may help ease symptoms but further research is needed.

    So far we have yet to hear of a flu outbreak as of today. And while it would be a miracle to not have a widespread outbreak, taking small, yet effective, precautionary measures can be the difference between being bedridden with fever, chills, and a cough and carrying on with your day.

    Do you take a flu shot? What measures do you take to prevent spreading the flu within your own home/work place?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: health


Thank you. Report
And STAY HOME when you are sick!!! Report
Great pointers. Forewarned is forearmed! Report
I won't get a flu shot. I believe in natural immunity. I wash my hands, get lots of fresh air, exercise, eat healthy, take vitamin D, and when I am sick, I stay home so I don't infect other people. Report
I opt out of a flu shot. I instead wash my hands constantly. Report
I get a flu shot each year, even though I don't get sick often. Report
Another great place to pick up germs is the GYM! I all those people picking up the weights and sweating all over it. I am pretty careful to wear lifting gloves and wipe down the equipment BEFORE I use it since you never know when the last time it was wiped down is. And bring my own towel. Report
You know where you are going to pick up a bug? From the grocery cart handle! Think of sick kids sitting there, babies chewing, dirty diapers leaking...I saw a TV news program that so shocked me that I've become compulsive about not touching my face and washing after the grocery store. Someone posted about carrying wipes - use them on the cart and wash when you get home. Report
I get a flu shot every year becaiuse of other health issues that may predispose me to getting the flu. I also wash my hands several time during the day especially after shaking hands with someone else, before eating, and after handiling money. I have hand sanitizers in my purse, in my desk at work and in my car. Report
I don't take the flu shot, but I keep my hands clean. Report
I always thought flu shots were too much trouble -- silly me. I had a flu shot last year, practiced lots of handwashing and did not get the flu. You can bet I got my flu shot first thing this year. Report
I got my flu shot and have for the last couple of years, ever since I started babysitting my grandchildren. I didn't want to spread any germs to them. I also use bacterial soap and clorox wipes and drink lots of water. Report
I haven't gotten a flu shot in years, but I think that I am going to start getting one. I kept getting these nasty colds and my doctor told me it was the flu. I didn't know you could get a flu that infected your sinuses, I was used to intestinal flu. Report
We've been getting the shots for years, because we're all asthmatic, and my husband is a heart patient.

When my son used to complain about the shot, I would tell him that a shot is over instantly, but the flu hurts all over for a long time! He's just been fortunate that he's never had to go through it.

I used to get the flu every year in high school. Never again! Shots are wonderful.

BTW, I'm just recovering from a rotten cold, and for some reason, I craved green tea all week! Report
As with many blogs, this is not as precise as might be. The study on temp/humidity found that 68 was better than 41 or below--not many of us go that cold. And one need 80% humidity to stop flu altogether; 20% and lower was best for the virus. Again, not standard.
Those who prefer cooler rooms are not that much more likely to get sick; in fact, switching from (too) warm to cool is apt to be harder on our systems than consistently cooler. Don't go into debt to reach 68--it's not a magic bullet! Report
I don't know if this is a fluke, but this is the first winter that I haven't gotten the sniffles once - could it be from eating well and exercising? Report
I don't take flu shot because they wack out my immune system even more than it already is. Those of us with auto-immune diseases should check with our doctors before taking any kind of medication (oral or shot) that affects our immune systems. In some cases it is contraindicated. Report
Now that I'm in college and taking more Biology classes, I'm really starting to value the research behind the often redundant advice against things like the flu and the importance of staying clean and healthy.

I think people sometimes underestimate the power of these bugs. People can and very much DO die from influenza and pneumonia. Report
I've worked in child care for over 15 years and have had the flu only once. I did get a flu shot last year, but have not made it a priority to get one this year--maybe I'll get one today since I have the day off. I figure it can't hurt (well maybe a little; ) to prevent some of the flu's from ravaging my body. I wash my hands a ton! And keep a supply of sanitizer in my purse. Report
Every yr. like clock work & the Pneumonia Shot as recommended every 2-5 yrs. As for the house? Disenfectant wipes, NEVER put your purse on the kitchen table or counters!!! Report
Good advice! Ya, I've seen/heard of sneezing or coughing into sleeves, and it makes sense. We use our hands so much, it's inevitable that we'll pass whatever germs are on them! Also don't forget to sanitize doorknobs, phones, remotes, and other frequently touched surfaces. Report
I work with kids and I teach all of them to cough into their sleeves. Report
My husband is in the high risk group, so we always get a flu shot each year. Report
that stinks, I didn't know about the cold environment - we keep our home as close to 60 degrees as possible - can't afford the heat bills !! Oh well I'll just drink a lot of tea and take my vitamin C :) Report
ALways get the flu shot. But one thing I noticed last year. I started working out seriously a little over a year ago. Work out every day before work. And last year I hardly had a cold compared to years before. I think the difference was that I was working out and that my body was stronger and better able to fight off the bugs. Report
Being a nurse, I get the flu shot every year. I cannot justify going without the shot and putting my patients in danger. Please remember, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot. It is inactivated flu. Yes, you may still get the flu but it will be milder than if you do not get the shot. No flu shot will protect you 100%, you must practice good handwashing and stay away from those that are sick. The flu can last up to six weeks, which means you are contagious before you take sick leave and when you return to work. The flu passes through contact and through droplets - which means you pass it when you touch someone, kiss someone, sneeze or cough within 6 ft of someone! The elderly, children and immuno compromised people are at the highest risk for death from the flu. Yes, the flu kills!!! If you are afraid of needles and you get the nose spray flu immunization you may feel ill as it is live virus and you can spread the flu after receiving it. If you receive the live vaccine stay away from children and the elderly and be sure to practice extra-careful handwashing. Handwashing is the number one defense against all illnesses!

Mary Report
Herd-immunity....get a flu shot to reduce the chance you (and others around you) will get influenza! I get one every year, espcially as I visit my home-bound grandmother frequently. Haven't had the flu in 10 years. Report
I had the flu when I was around 20 years. I was sick for 1 solid week. Once they offered flu shots I have had them. I have not had the flu since. Report
Every time I get a flu shot, I get the flu worse than if I had skipped the shot, needless to say I do NOT get flu shots anymore. I do all the suggested things, hand washing, heat up, eat properly, take vitamin C and Echinacea among other things and yet I still got a cold Friday. I am now drinking more water, juice and herb tea hoping it goes away soon, or at least stays tolerable. Report
Despite the fact that I live in Wisconsin, I've only had the flu only twice as an adult... The second time being this past November (early in the month). I suffered the full effect of the flu and can honestly say if someone has never had the flu or experienced the "full effect", they don't want to -- It's horrible! Report
Here is a pretty good link that explains what I heard/read recently about the risks of people over 50 who received five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980. The chances of developing alzheimers increased ten fold!

Everyone needs to search out the truth for themselves about vaccines. I know we all want to trust our government and affiliated health organizzations - but didn't we just learn that the FDA ignored 2007 studies regarding the dangers of BPA in plastics, choosing instead to listen to the results of 2 industry-funded studies. Can anyone say "conflict of interest"? Only now are so many people becoming aware of the dangers, that the FDA is finally being forced to "reconsider" it. Study for yourselves to find out what is best for you and your families. Don't just believe the mainstream media.

The other suggestions listed above and offered here in the comments are excellent ways to prevent illness and show a lot of good common sense. Report
Please, as you make your decision about flu shots, remember they contain a mercury based preservative. We don't want pregnant moms or little ones eating too much fish for the mercury ingested, yet we recommend the flu shot? I'm also big on vitamins, echinacea, and lots of hand washing! Report
i get flu shot/mist evry year. Started when I joined Air Force and I figure it is a good habit to keep. I haven't had the flu in over 25 years. Report
I wish I would have known about the trick of getting your children to wash their hands for 20 seconds by singing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” twice before rinsing when my boys were little! I certainly will remember it for grandchildren when they come along.

I worked in the school system for over 20 years and was one of those that said, "I'd never get a flu shot! I'm healthy from withstanding all the bugs floating around the school!" Then came the year, I did get the flu and it kept me down with reoccurring infections for most of the winter." I missed a lot of work and when I was getting into work, I felt as though I was spreading things to others. I now get the shot - never had the flu again. So worth it!! I'm in agreement with those that say, the more that get the shot and aren't around to spread it to others, the better we'll be able to keep this nasty stuff under control. Yes, it doesn't work for every strain, but it DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE FLU! The virus is dead. I would really find it hard to find sympathy for the co-workers who teased me because I would get the shot, and then I would have to listen to them complain when they were so sick with it the next month! LOL.....I'd just click my tongue and say next year, try the shot! Report
I really push hand-washing for my family. My daughter is pretty good about it, but my husband has to be reminded. I carry hand sanitizer in my purse (have a bottle in my car as well) and use it after shopping or handling money. Our local grocery store has a container of sanitizing wipes beside the buggy corral so I wipe down the buggy before shopping. It would be nice if the other stores would follow suit.

I don't get the flu shot unless I'm working outside the home or pregnant. Right now I'm a SAHM so I haven't had one in a couple years.

Around the house, I clean with Chlorox cleanup whenever I can. Once a week, I get out my bottle of Chlorox Anywhere Hard Surface Sanitizer and go through spraying doorknobs, phones, my daughter's toys, etc. I use Dawn with Bleach for my dishes. Report
I definitely believe in flu shots. I hear so many people say the shot made them get the flu! Please research this before saying it. I know the shot will only cover certain strains, but I haven't had the flu since I started getting the shots. I still get a cold occasionally, but not the flu.

I also wash my hands frequently, keep hand sanitizer on my desk and ask people who are sick to stay at least three feet away from me. I work with a woman who insists on coming to work when she has a cold (or the flu) and will go around to all the offices to tell people how sick she is, all the while picking things up from the desks while sneezing and coughing! I guess misery does love company!

Please, if you are sick, stay home! Report
Another important reminder- after blowing your nose, you need to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer! I keep a bottle next to the tissue boxes at school so my kiddos will remember to use it because the tissue isn 't the only thing to pick up germs! Report
My husband and I have never had flu shots and honestly don't personally know anybody who has had that shot that didn't get the flu. I'm big on the vitamins and washing my hands after the gym and the grocery store etc. - and we keep our heat around 62 - Sounds crazy I'm sure, but so far has worked well for us - Knock on wood! Report
These have been interesting comments. I too work in the school system and the board pays for our flu shots each year. They have found that even when we do get the flu, if twe have had the shot it is not as severe. We have a sore throat/head cold going around our school now and unfortunately I've caught is. I found an interesting "remedy" for night coughing. Rub the bottom of your feet with vicks rub and put socks on. Believe me, it does work! I'm getting a much better night's sleep. Report
I bought a neti pot but haven't used it yet. I'm going to have to pull it out and try it for sure. Thanks for the info ESINED1995! Report
I hardly ever get sick so I don't worry about getting the shot. Besides I hate needles. Report
I started using a neti pot last year on the recommendation of my accupuncture doctor. Before doing this I would have at least 2 or 3 sinus infections that would be so bad that I would get vertigo, NOT FUN!!! Since regularly using the neti pot (cost $12.00) and using non-iodized salt (38 cent) I have not once had a cold or sinus infection. Such a simple and inexpensive thing to do. I have worked as a school secretary for over 30 years and this last year is the first year I had no sickness. When it comes to flu shots, I have not done that the last two years and I didn't have any problems with that either. I always drink 8-10 glasses of water EVERY DAY, I believe this is one of the most important things you can do. Thanks for the article! Report
My nasapure sinus rinse has been my saving grace numerous times when others in the house were sick. They finally started the practice too. We also keep a whole house humidier running 24/7 with water treatment & bacterio-static solution that inhibits bacteria. Report
I think everyone should get a flu shot , not just the elderly or children the less people who get it the less it can spread......
Have a healthy day. Report
I've never had a flu shot. Even with one you can't be certain of not getting the flu, since it is a "guess" at what strain will be prevalent this year. I wash my hands, use lots of hand sanitizer at work (I work with the public), eat right, get plenty of rest and liquids, and exercise. I rarely get the flu or even a cold. Report
I don't get flu shots, but our family has always has good immune systems. Good hygiene helps. Report
I love the reminders yet am conflicted about the one regarding setting the thermostat to at least 68 degrees. To save money, we do not allow our heat in the house to get above 65 degrees unless it is absolutely below zero outside for several days. We do however use humidfiers so it is not so dry. How much difference can 2 or 3 degrees make to the flu virus versus how much it keeps our heating bill down. I'm thinking I would rather save the money. Just had to share. Report
Thank you for the reminders. Very timely.
--Anne Report
Two more tips that help. After I get done shopping and get to my car I use my hand santizier to clean my hands as you never know who used the cart before you and if they weren't feelng well. Also, once a month turn your heat off and open your house windows for 15 to 20 minutes to exchange the air quality in the house. Report