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?

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We get our flu shots every year, when you have a child born 17 weeks early and a mother in law who runs a flu shot really don't have a choice! LOL Report
In place of the hand towel in the bathroom we changed to paper towels. We have seen a real change in the number of colds spread through the house. Cleaning door knobs, phones, remote controls and light switches when someone is sick. Report
I take extra vitamin D supplements from fall through spring to help avoid the flu. Report
I have always had a low immune system so my flu season is all year long. Yes, witner is worse for me, but I take precautions all the time. I washmy hands almost in an OCD way. I do everything listed here plus others. It is way better to be safe than sorry, especially when one has had a weak immune system for their entire life. Report
It pays to take precautions. Report
I got my flu shot in Oct along with my husband. We get a shot every year. Report
I get a flu shot every year and have become fanatical about washing my hands! Report
I get a flu shot every year without fail. Report
I've had my flu shot every year since at least 2001. I worked in a hospital setting, and we were supposed to get them. I also know about the hand washing and coughing / sneezing into the elbow sleeve. I also carry hand sanitizer in my bag. My grocery store provides wipes where you pick up your cart, too. Report
The main thing I do is carry wipes with me that contain bleach and clean the handles on carts before i touch them. and after handling money I clean my hands, there is nothing dirtier than money.
BJ Report
I think that one of the best things one can do is taking something for the symptoms as soon as they exhibit. This keeps alot of those little buggies from flying thru the air. Most definitely if days at home in quarantine is not a option. I work in health care and I see people out all the time sneezing and coughing all over everything. Yuck. Report
I have gotten a flu shot for the last 15 years. Every year when my doctor makes my appointment anytime after October, he will also schedule my flu shot for me. I have astham so I must really be careful in the winter time. I try to stay away from people who have a cold. Report
"During the manufacturing process, antibiotics (neomycin, polymyxin B and gentamicin) are added to eliminate stray bacteria found in the mixture. The final solution can contain the following additives in any combination: Triton X-100 (a detergent); polysorbate 80 (a potential carcinogen); gelatin; formaldehyde; and residual egg proteins. In addition, many of the influenza vaccines still contain thimerosal as a preservative. Thimerosal (mercury) is being investigated for its link to brain injury and autoimmune disease. "

I have been aware of this info for many years, and as such, do not receive the shot. Immunizations only protect against limited strains of influenza. Most of what gets circulated in winter is garden-variety viral infection. Influenza actually accounts for quite a small number of cases each year. Report
This was the first year I have gotten a flu shot since I was a kid. Report
I've never gotten the flu shot. My family is pretty healthy. We usually don't get sick. Report
I am allergic to the flu shot, so all I can do is be extra carefull.
I work at a Grocery store and am handling money all the time, and that is the germiest thing going.
So I always have a container of disinfecters at my register.
And if someone goes through my line that I think are getting-have-or getting rid of- I disinfect my whole area, before taking the next customer, also my hands. Report
Never heard of the sneeze in your sleeve thing - my mother would be horrified!
When I was in the Navy I would avoid the flu shots by fibbing about being allergic to eggs. After I retired I spent 3 or 4 flu seasons sick as a dog. My doctor convinced to try the shot and as I haven't had the flu in many years, I am a believer!!!!
I have also found that Zicam really does seem to nip a cold in the bud!
Thanks for a great blog! Report
Back in the early days of flu shots, the vaccine was a weakened, live virus. At the time, EVERT time I got a flu shot I got bronchitis or pneumonia. After the third episode a Military doctor added, "Do Not Allow Flu Vaccines for This Individual - Allergic!" Thus I was able to avoid the Mandatory Flu shot.

When they changed to using a dead virus for the shot, I began taking taking the shot again on a yearly basis.

I am now one of those individuals who has a compromised immune system and continue to get the flu shot. Three years ago I also took the pneumonia vaccine.

I've not even had an upper respiratory infection for over 10 years. Report
I have regularly gotten flu shots since I had pneumonia 10 years ago at the recommendation of my doctor and I am only 37. It still seems like I pick every little thing up though. Report
I've never had a flu shot and I am 39 with 5 kids and have only had the flu once in my life when I was about 10 years old. I live in the big city (L.A) and my children very rarely get sick. My family has rarely ever taken antibiotics and I believe that your body will produce what you need to fight the germs. If you are other healthy other wise, I think that you should let your body do its job. Report
I got my first flu shot this year after my doctor recommended it (since we're TTC). Other than that, we just do the "cough into the sleeve" thing and try to wash our hands often. So far so good. DH and I have rarely gotten sick during flu season. Report
I've never gotten the flu shot and I don't really plan to get one. My husband got one last year and was so sick after it! He won't get another one, either. I might have just been a coincidence, but we don't know for sure. I try to keep as sanatized as possible. Luckily, many people I work with work in remote locations or from home so I don't come in too much contact with buggies there. Report
As an immune-compromised individual, I get a flu shot every year. The doctor's office calls me to come in as soon as they get the vaccine. I find the flu shot the best prevention out there! Report
Back in the '70s the military was used as guinea pigs for flu shots. I was given a batch that put everyone under 30 on bedrest for a week. In fact my husband had to carry me to the ER. That vaccine was not given to military overseas. Did that practice continue? Who knows, but as a civilian, I get my flu shot every year with no side affects. Report
I think it's funny that schools have to teach children something so basic and that it would be seen as 'crazy'. We grew up sneezing or coughing into the 'crook' of our arms - something our parents taught all six of us to do back in the '40s-'50s. Report
I've never gotten the flu from a flu shot until this year. It was a mild case though. I found a powder called Emergen-C at Walmarts. It is packed with lots of vitamins expecially C and minerals. It is put in water and fizzes. Taste yummy and very low cal and they even come in sugar free form. My husband and I have been taking it at any sign of cold or sickness and it really seems to lessen the symptoms or gets rid of it completely. Also if you tend to have dry skin in the winter and don't like the hand sanitizer cause of the alcohol in it....they do have hand cream types with no alcohol. Report
Have only had the flu once. That was in Germany in 1984 while in the army. They had giving us the wrong vaccine. Trust me, you don't want the full effect of the flu. I get a flu shot every year. Do get a cold now and again. Don't know if it helps, but I take an immune system booster. I also believe that exercise is very good to. The fact you make your body raise it heart rate and help sweat out some of the bad things in your system. Report
I very rarely get the flu. I've gotten the flu shot once or twice, and should have this year since my insurance company was offering it for free. But I didn't take advantage. I hope I stay healthy! Report
The only time I ever had the flu was in bootcamp when I 'had' to have the flu shot! That was 25+ years ago, and I've never been sick since.
If someone around me is sniffly or coughing, whether it's a bypasser at work or one of my kids at home, I start on a 3 day regimine of Vit C and Zinc. Heck, that's what's in those 'cold medicines' that you get OTC, but they've also got Acetemenophen or Ibuprophen - ingredients that not only you don't NEED to take, but can also increase the risk of liver problems if taken more than 3 days in a row.
So yep, I'll stick to MY thing of vit c and zinc, keep that hand sanitizer nearby and drink PLENTY of water! Report
working in a nursing home and reabilation center i get a flu shot every year
got my last month Report
I got the flu shot, my husband did not. Guess who got sick and now has passed it on to me. Hot tea, warm baths and throat drops. Report
I wish that more people would understand the importance of washing hands and sneezing or coughing into your sleeve. Especially those with children that have runny noses that are sneezing and coughing behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store. Report
We all got flu shots. Plus, as a former teacher, I teach my children to cough into their elbow, to help prevent the transmission of germs.
-e Report
Fan of washing your hands -- sanitizing products in work and public places and staying HOME when you're sick.

I have a flu shot (usually in October) because I'm in one of the 'high risk' groups. Report
I work for a large community college in Los Angeles, so I'm a big fan of Ricola products--I used their Echinicea drops & I rarely would get sick! Report
I teach in public school and have since 1991. I started with teaching four-year-olds and now teach second grade. One thing I have ALWAYS taught my students is the importance of washing hands. Another is the sneezing into elbow and/or shoulder area of their body vs. hands. You would think the janitoral staff would think cleaning the doorknobs EVERY day would be important, but it falls LOW, LOW, LOW on their list of that is another hat I wear as an educator. Regardless, what time of year it is, I clean the doorknob on my classroom door. The room temp stays cool to warm...too warm they go to sleep, or sometimes vice versa. Working with children, in classroom and a daycare, I wash my hands so much I feel as if I have washed off a layer of I also have asthma and frequent bronchitis, and was recently diagnosed with diabetes...which is very well maintained with diet and exercise. I have taken a flu shot every year for as long as I can remember, and have not had the flu. Due to getting pnuemonia several times a year, for the past five years, I decided to add the pnuemonia shot this year. It hurt, lol, but it only has to be done every ten years...thank goodness I will be very old when I have to do it Report
I have severe asthma, diabetes, heart challenges, so the flu and pneumonia shot are routine for me. When people get ill after receiving it, it is just what the articcle above states:while the body is building the proper immunities for the shot to work, the germ is caught by this person. NO FLU SHOT CAN GIVE ANYBODY THE FLU! It is a dead virus, like ashes are to a fire!
I automatically wipe handles, keyboard, etc off iwth sanitizer. Toilet handles, and seats ar the worst, along with the faucet handles. HOw many people do you know htat wash heir hands BEFORE HEY FLUSH and how do they turn the faucet on to wash their hands??? Refrigerator, car, room and public building doors are the same way. Mailbox, handling cash, especially at the window where we don't see anybody face-to-face to think about if they just sneezed or handled $$ that somebody else sneezed on?? It is mind-boggling if you dwell, but if you just make some these things a routine, it is not a big deal, as prettyblkgryl says!! Report
I have Asthma, so I always make sure I get a flu shot every year as it's free over here in the UK if you are in one of the qualifying catagories. I haven't had flu for many years and don't often get a cold, but if I do it tends to end up on my chest.

I carry hand sanitizer and wash my hands as frequently as possible since I'm dealing with many different computers at work and some of the keyboards make me shudder with horror! I also carry antibacterial wipes for the worst ones and disposable tissues for me.

Vitamin supplements and green tea are also a way of life for me. Report
I used to get bronchitis three times a year. My doctor recommended the flu shot for me. That shot has been a lifesaver for me. The only time I have had bronchitis since is the year that the vaccine was tainted and they had none available to give. Report
around 1976 or 1977, I took the swine flu shot at the advice of our government. I ended up with fever blisters completly covering both my upper and lower lip. I was so congested that I ran two vaporizers to breath at all and the body aches were excruciating! I don't ever intend to take another flu shot. Report
I've never had a flu shot, and I honestly don't intend on getting one anytime soon.
I think the most important thing you can do towards preventing getting sick through viruses and bacteria is just to practice proper hygiene and take care of your body through good nutrition and exercise! Vitamins might not hurt...and there's that Airborne stuff that is supposed to boost your immune system, though I've never tried it. Report
I don't get the flu shot anymore. That is why I try to take extra precautions during the cold & flu season. I didn't realize hanging on to used tissues was such a no-no. I usually stuff them in my pocket if I'm not close to a garbage can. I'll start carrying a plastic bag to put them in.

I'm also HUGE on carrying around hand sanitizer. I've been doing it for a couple of years now. I was getting sick of getting other people's germs and bringing them back to my family. Especially when I'd see a co-workers coughing or sneezing into their hands & then grabbing the phone, a door knob, touching a light switch, using an ink pen or touching a computer keyboard. *shudder*

I even clean off the handle of my grocery store cart. I'd rather be safe than sorry - because I can't afford to get sick. Report