How to Avoid Getting Sick This Holiday Season

We’ve compiled the best ways to fight back against colds and flu viruses this holiday season.

As the temperature drops, and flu season rages on, more individuals are falling ill. Luckily, there are ways to fight back against cold and flu viruses so that you’ll be in good shape during the holiday season.

Cold and flu viruses are always around, at least according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The reason individuals are susceptible to falling ill during the winter months and holidays is that more time is spent indoors, and in large groups, which makes it easier for viruses to spread from person-to-person.

Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the common cold virus, by adopting healthy habits, individuals can reduce their chances of becoming ill. What do these habits entail?

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly, with soap and water.
  • Limit your exposure to those who are sick.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Remember to eat a balanced diet.
  • Be sure to get enough sleep.
  • Exercise is important.

Telltale signs of a cold are a stuffy/runny nose and sneezing; individuals with colds can also experience itchy throats or develop a cough. The good news is, colds usually pass quickly (about 3 to 5 days), unlike the flu.

In a recent interview with Contagion ®, William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, predicted that a “more serious strain of the flu” will be most prevalent this flu season. The strain in question? H3N2.

“Last year, we had this H3N2 strain, and, frankly, we expect the same this year,” he said. “Now, the good news is that what’s in the vaccine is a very good match to that H3N2 strain. So, if you needed another reason to either give the flu vaccine or to get it, the H3N2, which causes more serious diseases, ought to provide you that reason to roll up your sleeve.”

Flu is highly contagious—spread through droplets created when individuals cough, sneeze, or even speak. The best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated.

Of course, the idea that the current vaccine is not very effective has been plastered across headlines everywhere; but, Dr. Schaffner wants to remind the public that when it comes to the vaccine, the jar is three-quarters full, not half empty.

“The flu vaccine is a pretty darn good vaccine—it’s not a perfect vaccine,” he stressed. “It’s not like the measles vaccines that will prevent measles completely.” However, the vaccine is reformulated each year to keep up with a virus that constantly mutates. “It always prevents many, many infections. And remember, if it doesn’t prevent the infection completely, it will modify the infection; it will make it milder, make it less likely if you get the flu that you will have to go to the hospital, be admitted to the intensive care unit, or die. Nothing that we do in medicine is less expensive, easier to get, and more efficient in providing all that prevention.”

The FDA recommends that individuals get vaccinated in October each year; however, vaccination into January will still provide protection against the virus. While individuals with colds usually suffer from fairly mild symptoms, those with the flu can experience fever, headaches, chills, a dry cough, body aches, fatigue, “and general misery,” according to the FDA. Vaccination is even more important for those at increased risk for developing serious flu-related complications, such as individuals younger than 5, women who are pregnant, those with chronic health conditions, and those 65 and over.

Already feeling under the weather?

  • Gargle with salt water to relieve sore throats.
  • A cool-mist humidifier can help if you have a stuffy nose.
  • Discuss your symptoms with your health care provider.
  • Limit exposing others to your virus.
  • Remember to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Hydrate.
  • Rest.