Healthcare 101: Battling the cold and flu season

Cold and flu season is here once again. The number of cases of colds tends to peak in December or January. February is usually peak time for influenza. 2 It’s almost certain you will come into contact with colds and the flu this season. But there are plenty of preventive measures you can take to decrease your risk of catching them, or to reduce their severity if you do.

What you can do:

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands frequently1, with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being with ill people and before you eat.2
  • An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol can be used when soap and water are not available.3
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.1 They’re the entryways to your body for cold and flu viruses.
  • Cold and flu viruses are spread when infected people cough, sneeze or even speak. Touching contaminated surfaces, like keyboards, doorknobs, and phones can spread the germs. So be sure to clean those objects frequently. 2

Avoid or limit contact

  • Avoid contact with other sick people as much as you can. For the same reason you don’t want to infect others when you are sick, try to avoid other sick people. 2
  • Avoid sharing objects, especially with people who are ill.1
  • Avoid crowds if possible.

Prepare your body for the fight

  • Get enough sleep to help keep from getting run down. 1
  • Reduce your stress.1
  • Eat right and get regular exercise.1
  • Get a flu shot. It’s the number one way to help prevent the flu.4

If you become infected, fight it!

  • If you develop a fever higher than 100.4°F, have symptoms that last more than 10 days, or are not relieved by over-the-counter medications, you should visit your physician.2
  • Keep in mind that antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections, not viruses, which are the causes of the common cold.2
  • There are a few natural remedies that have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of colds and flu, including saline nasal drops or sprays and gargling with salt water.2
  • Stay home from work or school. This will also allow your body the extra energy necessary to fight off any infection.2
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, preferably with a tissue. Then, promptly discard this tissue. If you do not have a tissue available, use your elbow or upper arm, not your hands. This can help prevent others around you from getting sick. 2
  • Avoid contact with the frail, very young, and elderly.
  • Antiviral drugs can be used early to treat people who are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu. This includes people with risk factors such as chronic heart or lung disease, advanced age, asthma, COPD, or a compromised immune system. Most otherwise healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.5
  • If you are at high risk, or you become very sick with the flu or cold, the most important thing is getting the care you need as soon as possible.

You may be able to save time and pay lower out-of-pocket costs when you choose the right level of care for your needs. If you need help determining where to go, click here. An option for routine care that might be faster or more convenient than your primary care doctor for minor illnesses is a retail clinic. These clinics may offer lower costs than an emergency room or urgent care center. Look for them in retail stores, supermarkets, and drugstores. MinuteClinic® inside select CVS/pharmacy® stores is a retail clinic included in Humana’s network and is a great option for receiving minor care while running errands or traveling for the holidays.

This material is provided for informational use only. You should consult with your doctor.

Sources:

1 http://www.uwhealth.org/flu/10-ways-to-stay-healthy-during-cold-and-flu-season/10371

2 http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/24/tips-for-staying-healthy-during-cold-and-flu-season/

3 http://www.pamf.org/flu/healthytips.html

4 http://symptoms.webmd.com/cold-and-flu-map-tool/avoid-cold-flu

5 http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/antiviral_factsheet1112_9-24.pdf

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