If you are not feeling well, you aren’t the only one. There are definitely clusters of respiratory illnesses occurring all around us, and this isn’t unusual especially during flu season. You’ve surely seen one or more of your coworkers out of the office for a cold, the flu, or other infection.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Because it takes about 2 weeks for our antibodies to begin to protect us from the flu, it is advised to get it as soon as the season starts in late fall. As you may recall from seasons past, cold season tends to mimic the trends of flu season, with one exception: cold season often peaks around December or January rather than in February or March (as is the case with influenza). While colds typically have milder effects than the flu, unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern between a cold and a flu based on symptoms alone.
Chances are, you will contract one of these illnesses this season, and while you cannot avoid them entirely, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to help decrease your risk or even the severity of illness.
Here are some of the CDC recommendations to staying healthy:
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or alcohol based-rub when water is not available
- Avoid close contacts with sick people
- If you become sick, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone
Refrain from touching your mouth, nose or eyes. It is widely believed that flu and cold viruses are spread when infected people cough, sneeze or even speak. It is also thought that touching contaminated surfaces, like keyboards, doorknobs and phones can help spread the germs. Try to frequently clean such objects.
As far as natural remedies for cold and flu prevention go, they run the entire gamut from ineffective to effective. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on vitamins, minerals or other supplements even though there is little or no proof of their effectiveness. Echinacea is one more commonly touted supplements, which could be a helpful to have in your cold and flu arsenal.
Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows throughout the U.S. and Canada. Studies have shown that it increases the number of white blood cells and boosts the activity of other immune cells. Although the benefits of Echinacea for the common cold are not proven, the risks of taking it are very low.