Flu season reaches its peak right around February,1 and February is almost here! Some of us have already fallen victim to the sneezing, the aching, and the overall misery of the flu. Before it strikes (or strikes again), you can prepare yourself for a good fight. First, let’s differentiate between some easily confusable symptoms so you know what you’re up against.
Flu Symptoms vs Cold Symptoms
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks it down quite simply. The flu is different from a cold because:
- It comes on abruptly (as opposed to a cold which comes on gradually)
- You’ll usually have a fever that lasts 3-4 days
- It’s common to experience the chills
- You may have a headache
A cold typically won’t involve these four symptoms unless you have a rare case. Symptoms commonly shared between the cold and flu include:
- Stuffy Nose
- Sore Throat
Now that we know what we’re trying to protect ourselves from, let’s get into some prevention tips. Here are some measures you can take to help ward of the flu this February:
Take Precautions in Crowded Places
You don’t need to boycott your favorite theme parks or stay home from the store, hockey game, or the gym to protect yourself from the flu. You just need to be mindful of where your hands have been. If you’ve touched something contaminated with flu germs, you’re probably going to be okay unless you got those germs into an open wound. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth until you’ve washed your hands. If you don’t have access to water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do the trick until you can wash up.
|>> At the gym, wash your hands before and after your workout. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth during your workout.|
Keep Commonly Used Surfaces Clean
The kids are bringing home everything they touched while they were at school, and you’re bringing home everything you touched at work, at the grocery store, and everywhere else you’ve been. Encourage handwashing at home and keep commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs, the television remote, game controllers, and refrigerator doors, clean and disinfected.
|>> At the gym, use the available sanitizing foam and paper towels to wipe down your equipment before and after use.|
Prepare Your Immune System for Battle
Your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise habits all factor into your immune system’s preparedness. Even your stress levels have a part to play. Fortunately, sleeping enough, exercising, and eating healthily all help reduce stress levels and keep your body strong against germy invaders. To help your system further, read our registered dietitian’s article on Spices That Boost Immunity and Fight Inflammation.
|>> At the gym, incorporate moderate exercise a few times a week to boost your immunity. Studies show that doing so can drastically reduce the number of colds you catch each year.|
If it All Fails, Stay Home Until Your Fever Breaks
You may take every precaution and somehow still get sick, because life is unpredictable that way. If you catch the flu, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away. You can help stop the spread of the flu and take some much-needed rest and recovery time at home. Of course, if you need to see a doctor, you should go.
|>> At the gym, consider that your flu (or your child’s) can spread quickly in a public setting like the gym or Kids’ Club.|
- “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.