How to Protect Yourself Against the Flu and Common Cold

Dr. Lauren Motto, PharmD

We experience it every year: flu season. The common cold can also be a concern – as it can spread easily through day cares, classrooms, offices, or any confined space – even if you don’t catch the actual flu. It feels like everyone around is coughing, sneezing, and spreading their germs. No one wants to get sick, so what are the best ways to avoid it? I have a quick list of ways to protect yourself against getting sick this year:

1. Get your flu shot

There is a belief that you can catch the flu from a flu shot, but that’s a myth! When you get any vaccination, it is a dead or weakened form of the virus. That means that the germs that normally make you sick can’t, because they aren’t alive, and are thus unable to attack your body. Instead, when you receive a shot your body thinks that it is under attack and goes to fight the virus, even though the virus is dead. Your body is busy attacking the virus and is now open to potentially catching another sickness from someone else, which is why you could have a fever or not feel well. The flu shot will protect you and the people around you from the flu for years to come! For instance, if the flu from 2008 is similar to the flue of 2017, you will already be protected if you got the shot in 2008. Most insurances cover the flu shot, which you can get at your physician’s office or at your local pharmacy. It’s never too late!

Taking vitamins, exercising, staying hydrated, and sleeping enough can be hard to do, but having a health-conscious schedule will keep your body in top shape and able to fight off colds this season.

2. Clean your space

I’m sure you remember to clean your bathroom and dining table, but what about your back door? When someone is sick, everything they touch could leave germs waiting to get you sick. It’s great to keep your hands clean, but what’s the point if you get new germs the instant you touch your desk? Your light switches, keyboard, phone, and even toothbrush may need some extra attention.

3. To stay healthy, be healthy

It’s impossible to avoid sickness if you aren’t taking care of your body in all facets of your life. Taking vitamins, exercising, staying hydrated, and sleeping enough can be hard to do, but having a health-conscious schedule will keep your body in top shape and able to fight off colds this season.

Now, what happens if you do get sick? As always, know when something is too severe to handle on your own and go see your doctor. If you want a sounding board before making the appointment feel free to talk to your local pharmacist! They can also refer you to any over-the-counter products that may be able to help you feel better quickly. Take a cough suppressant if you have a dry cough, an expectorant if you have a wet cough, cough drops/spray with a pain reliever for a sore throat, decongestant if you have a stuffy nose, and be sure to stay hydrated! An oral rehydration solution is a great way to stay hydrated during a cold as it can rapidly rehydrate your body in the cases of clinical dehydration.