While respiratory viruses circulate year-round, cases of colds and flus make a dramatic increase as the weather cools. In winter, indoor air tends to be less humid, making it easier for viruses to live longer inside. Spending time indoors with an airborne virus makes it easier to inhale or pick up through our eyes, noses, and mouths, and being in close contact with others in these environments makes viruses easier to spread.
While most colds are mild, they can, like the flu, cause serious illness, complications, and even death. For high-risk groups like young children, the eldery, and immunocompromised individuals, cold and flu season can be an especially scary time. With a few simple precautions we can protect ourselves, our families, and others from colds and flus.
1. Get the Flu Shot
Every year, updated influenza vaccinations become available to the public. The CDC recommends that all persons over the age of 6 months who do not have contraindications should get a flu shot by the end of October. Safe and effective, the flu shot helps you create antibodies to fight off the strains of flu that pose the greatest threat each year. They reduce your chances of getting the flu, and lessen its impact if you do contract it. There are many misconceptions about flu vaccines which the CDC addresses here. If you have concerns or questions about the vaccine, you should speak with your doctor.
2. Mask Up
During the winter of 2020, there was a sharp decline in the rate of colds and flus. In the CDC’s surveillance network, only 1,316 positive flu cases were logged between September 2020 and the end of January 2021, compared to 130,000 cases during that time the previous year. Experts agree that this plummet in cases was the result of masking. Wearing a mask when you go out during flu season helps protect you, your family, and your community. It’s especially important to wear a mask in public if you’re feeling sick, attending an indoor event, traveling, or regularly spending time with members of at-risk groups.
3. Wash Your Hands
We touch our eyes, mouths, and noses far more frequently than we realize. When we do this, we offer a helping hand to viruses keen on making our bodies their new home. Washing our hands frequently with soap and water reduces the odds of getting sick and of getting someone else sick. Help your kids establish good habits for cold and flu season by having them wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after getting home from school. Remind them to wash their hands frequently during the day as well.
4. Push Fluids
When it comes to staying healthy, fluids are our friends. Drinking plenty of water enables our blood to transport vital nutrients through our bodies, which is essential for keeping our immune systems going strong. Get your kids into the practice of drinking water early to give them a headstart in building immune system-supportive habits. During cold and flu season, increase your water intake, and back it up with vitamins like zinc and magnesium to give your immune system an extra boost to fight off viral pathogens.
5. Get Plenty of Rest
People often say that sleep is medicine. That turns out to be true. Getting the optimal amount of sleep for one’s age can reduce the risk of infection when exposed to a virus and help you recover faster if you do get sick. When we sleep, our immune systems release proteins called cytokines. Certain cytokines are essential when we’re fighting a viral infection, and sleep deprivation can decrease their production. Sleep deprivation also reduces protective antibodies and cells. Sleep is especially important for kids. Setting your family up with a healthy nighttime routine is a great way to work together to reduce the risk of illness in your home.
Stay Healthy with Richfield Medical Group
Cold and flu season can be a rough time, but with the right precautions we can help keep ourselves, our families, and our communities healthier. At Richfield Medical Group, we take a personal and proactive approach to improving and maintaining our patients’ health. From seasonal flu shots to checkups and addressing your concerns, our dedicated medical staff prioritizes the health of you and your loved ones. If you would like more information about protecting your family this cold and flu season, or would like to make an appointment, please contact us today at https://richfieldmedicalgroup.com/.