Getting Through Cold and Flu Season

Tips to stay healthy and treat symptoms.

cold flu season tips

Fall has arrived, and it may bring on the sniffles and other seasonal illness, including the flu. The traditional flu season begins around October and can last through May. In addition, the common cold can start making its way around your community now through flu season. To stay ahead of this year’s cold and flu season, prepare your household with needed tools and prevention strategies.

Cold vs. flu: What’s the difference?

Although the cold and flu share some symptoms, it’s important to understand that the flu can feel much more intense and begin quicker than a cold. Both conditions have similar symptoms, shown below, and you may need to be seen by a provider to rule out the flu.

The best way to tell them apart is to ask yourself – are my symptoms mild or more intense? The cold will present mild symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, gradual symptom onset, slight body aches, sneezing, sore throat and sometimes fatigue. The flu has abrupt symptom onset, fever and body aches, chills, cough, headaches and sometimes a stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat.

Prevention through vaccination

Exposure to the common cold or flu can happen anywhere such as school, work, or in your community. It is recommended that all individuals receive an annual flu shot in addition to the latest COVID-19 booster vaccine. The flu vaccine is widely available at clinics and through local pharmacies.

If you are considering a COVID-19 booster, the CDC highly recommends vulnerable adult and pediatric populations receive the vaccine soon. This includes those with a weakened immune system, individuals ages 65 and older, those with chronic conditions such as lung disease, obesity, advanced diabetes, or kidney disease, and women who are pregnant.

At-home prevention strategies

Beyond staying up to date on vaccines, equip your home with cold and flu season necessities. Shop early for electrolytes which help hydrate and replenish nutrients while someone is ill, over-the-counter cold and cough medications, a humidifier which can also help with seasonal allergies, and nasal drops to relieve stuffiness. Be sure to also have a disinfectant spray or cleaning wipes on hand to help minimize the spread of illness in your home.

What warrants a visit to the doctor?

If you have a fever that has not resolved, have a difficult time breathing, are unable to hold fluids, and have worsening symptoms, it is best to seek care. If any of your symptoms result in emergent care, dial 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency department. If symptoms are less severe, an urgent care clinic may be more appropriate.

– Bejal Patel, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist at Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center