COLD, FLU, AND COVID-19

Every year, as we transition into the fall and winter months, it is important to be mindful of our health and take certain precautions to prevent a cold or the flu. However, this year it is especially important to distinguish between the symptoms of these two common illnesses and COVID-19.

 

The three enemies – cold, flu, and COVID-19 – are contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. They can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, even lead to death. These are the most common symptoms for each of them:

 

SYMPTOMS COLD FLU COVID-19
Fever
Chills
Cough
Sore Throat
Headaches
Aches
Tiredness
Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
Lost of Taste and Smell
Running or Stuffy Nose
Sneezing
Watery Eyes

Treatments for and duration of these conditions vary, but the standards are:

COLD FLU COVID-19
Treatment Most over-the-counter medications have, at best, moderate effects on cold symptoms Stay home and get plenty of rest and fluids and treat a fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) Paracetamol and do call your doctor
Duration 7 to 10 days 5 to 7 days 10 days from symptoms

 

Commonalities among these three illnesses make it easier to understand how to prevent them.

Here are some health tips from the CDC to prevent getting them:

 

  • Avoid close contact. Limit contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose or tissue to prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs, especially if you cough into your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are spread often when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. Use your towel in your apartment, and don’t share it with others.
  • Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially if someone is ill. Also, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.

 

For the flu, the single best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated each year, and this year is even more important to protect you and your family from any health complications.

Here are some tips to make it through the season:

  1. Stay Active

When it’s cold outside, it can be a struggle to get out of bed, let alone go outside and exercise. Yet research shows that exercise is an excellent way to boost your immune system naturally and therefore help your body stay healthy in the wake of cold and flu season. Additionally, exercise helps decrease your stress levels, which can aid your body if it is fighting off an infection.

 

  1. Eat Right

Most winter holidays involve eating large, elaborate meals made up of comfort foods. While those meals are certainly fine to enjoy in moderation, it’s important to make sure that you watch your consumption of fats and sugars just like any other time of year. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that will support your immune system and keep you from feeling sluggish.

  1. Get Enough Sleep Another essential aspect of supporting your immune system is getting enough sleep. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you aren’t giving your body time to rest and restore itself, which can leave you vulnerable to infections and illnesses. So, get to bed early and make sure you get your full eight hours!

 

 

  1. Watch Out for Germs

We’ll keep this one short. Make sure that you’re washing your hands properly and regularly—we have a whole blog post about it! Stay home from the office if you’re sick and encourage your coworkers to do the same. Finally, if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, drive yourself to the nearest pharmacy and get vaccinated!

 

  1. Be Aware of Your Mental Health

It’s easy to forget that taking care of your mental health is a vital part of staying healthy, and it’s especially important to prioritize during winter. As many as 6 percent of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.” It typically affects people starting in Fall and bleeding into winter and can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, including low energy, depression, trouble sleeping, changes in weight or appetite, and difficulty concentrating. If you feel like you may be experiencing SAD, speak with your doctor about treatment options. Light therapy, for example, may be helpful for people suffering from less severe cases. If your symptoms are more intense, your health provider may suggest medication or therapy.

At SOMOS Healthcare, our network of physicians and specialists in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens are laser-focused on delivering high-quality, culturally sensitive, patient-centered care to New York City families. Call your doctor if you have any questions about these diseases to have a germ-free season.

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

https://www.pinnaclehealth.org/wellness-library/how-to-stay-healthy-during-winter/

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html

https://familywize.org/blog/4-research-backed-ways-to-stay-healthy-in-winter-weather

 

 

By Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

ACP Chief Medical Officer