7 ways to plan for cold and flu season
Declining temperatures can bring fun, cool-weather activities, but they also mean cold and flu season is lurking. While everyone hopes to stay healthy, it can be difficult to completely avoid viruses and bugs.
Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a board-certified family physician and Braun spokesperson, offers some simple suggestions to help your family plan for cold and flu season.
Dispose of expired medicine
Spend some time checking the medications you already have at home. Review the expiration dates and if any need to be thrown out, research how to properly dispose of them according to local government guidelines.
Before cold and flu season, make sure to stockpile must-haves like ginger ale, ice pops and recommended cough suppressants. Thinking ahead means you won’t have to rush out when you or a family member comes down with something.
Practice healthy habits
Encourage the entire family to maintain healthy habits such as regular hand washing, following a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue to help minimize the spread of cold and flu viruses.
Use a reliable thermometer
Reading the temperature of a person who feels ill can help provide confidence and peace of mind. Make sure you have a reliable thermometer like the Braun ThermoScan 5 Ear thermometer, which takes professionally accurate temperature readings via the ear canal and, based on a survey, is the number 1 brand recommended by pediatricians who recommend a brand of thermometers. “It’s important to carefully monitor potential illnesses to make sure children get and stay well, and taking an accurate temperature reading is a necessary part of this process, which is why I trust my Braun thermometer,” Gilboa said. “As a doctor and a mom to four boys, it gives me the confidence to know that I’m accurately taking my child’s temperature before I take any next steps, like administering medication.”
Have important information on hand
To save time when your child is ill, keep a reference of your child’s allergies, prescribed medications, dosage amounts and current weight handy. Health care providers typically need this information to correctly prescribe and dose most medications. Other items to keep on-hand include school sick-day policies, operating manuals for medical devices and a reference of temperature readings that classify a fever.
Manage humidity levels
Control your home’s humidity levels with a humidifier to help prevent the survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air. Keep contact information accessible: Keep a list of important phone numbers and addresses inside your medicine cabinet door or on the fridge so they’re easily accessible to family members, babysitters and caretakers. Include your family doctor or local clinic, schools, pharmacists and anyone else you may need to reach in an emergency. If cold or flu reach your household this winter, it’s always important to consult a doctor if you have any questions regarding the health of your family members. For more information, visit braunthermometers.com.
Q&A Upstate Consierge
Q.What are the first signs of colds and flu that people should be on the lookout for?
A.”Typically most cold and flu viruses start with what we call a prodrome. It is that initial feeling that patients get of fatigue, achiness and sometimes fever. That’s usually the very first symptoms patients experience with a virus. That oh-so familiar feeling is quickly followed by the organ symptoms that are affected by the particular virus. So depending on the virus, that could be runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, cough or even nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”
– Keith Algozzine, PA-C, CEO United Concierge Medicine
Q & A with PT (Integrative Physical Therapy (IPT)
Many people have the misery of the flu and colds by sneezing and throwing out their backs. How can folks avoid doing this when they are weak and sneezing and coughing a lot?
You are not alone in injuring or straining your back or neck from a cough or sneeze. It’s fairly common. Usually, there is a pre-existing weakness or condition present in the spine but not symptomatic until the cough or sneeze reveals it. Coughing and sneezing both increase intracranial and intraspinal pressure. The discs between the vertebrae in the spine are viscous and follow the laws of fluid. The increased pressure from the sneeze causes the weakened disc to bulge further or herniate.
In fact, it is a question I ask during every physical therapy evaluation: Is there increased pain with coughing or sneezing? To make matters worse, people tend to look down and bend over during sneezing, further increasing the pressure posteriorly on the discs. Most discs will herniate posteriorly.
So my recommendations for protecting the back and neck during cold and flu seasons are: First and foremost, remember not to bend over and look down when sneezing. Rather, try to stand up straight, slightly look up just a bit. Place one hand or fist in the small of your back pressing inward to arch the spine and lengthen toward the ceiling while the other hand can use a Kleenex in front of the nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs. If you are in the privacy of your own home, use both hands to support and brace the low back.
Another alternative is to sit on the bones at the edge of a chair. Make sure both feet are planted firmly on the ground under the knees so the legs are supporting some of your bodyweight. Use one hand to press against the seat of the chair to unweight the spine some as you slightly arch your back and lengthen toward the ceiling during the sneeze.
I also highly recommend avoiding the vampire sneeze. Some people on YouTube suggest you sneeze into your elbow/ forearm. However, this adds rotation with flexion to the spine, and this is even worse for the discs!
It is recommended to engage the core while doing all of the above to splint and muscularly stabilize the spine. Engaging your core is how you employ your lower abdomen correctly.
– Kimberly DelVecchio, PT, FAFS, Owner • 1 Barney Road, Suite 120 Clifton Park InspiredTherapy.com
Do I need a flu vaccine every year? According to the Center for Disease Control, the answer to the often asked question is yes.
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone six months and older, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. The reason for this is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the “optimal” or best protection against the flu.
No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made in two ways: The vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been “inactivated” and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur.
In randomized, blinded studies, where some people get inactivated flu shots, and others get salt-water shots, the only differences in symptoms were increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences regarding body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
Because colds and flu have many similar indicators they can mimic each other. Special tests need to be taken within days of illness to tell if a person has the flu. If the tests are negative, you probably have what is referred to as the common cold. Colds will not result in any serious health problems as a rule, which is different from a flu, but the feeling of being feverish and full of body aches are there, just to a lesser degree.
MedicineNet.com recently published a comprehensive piece by medical author Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, as well as medical editor William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, stating that “while it is impossible to completely prevent the spread of colds, there are steps you can take to reduce your and your family’s chances of becoming infected with a virus that causes colds.”
Wash your hands often. This is probably the single best measure to prevent transmission of colds. Especially after shopping, going to the gym, or spending time in public places, hand washing is critical. Frequent hand washing can destroy viruses that you have acquired from touching surfaces used by other people. You can also carry a small tube of hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand wipes when visiting public places. Teach your children the importance of hand washing too.
Avoid touching your face, especially the nose, mouth, and eye areas, if you are around someone with a cold or have been touching surfaces in a public area.
Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoke can irritate the airways and increase susceptibility to colds and other infections. Even exposure to passive smoke can make you (or your children) more vulnerable to colds.
Use disposable items if someone in your family is infected. Disposable cups can be thrown away after each use and prevent accidental spread of the virus from sharing of cups or glasses. This is particularly important if you have young children who may try to drink from others’ cups.
Keep household surfaces clean. Door knobs, drawer pulls, keyboards, light switches, telephones, remote controls, countertops, and sinks can all harbor viruses for hours after their use by an infected person. Wipe these surfaces frequently with soap and water or a disinfectant solution.
If your child has a cold, wash his or her toys as well when you are cleaning household surfaces and commonly-used items.
Use paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom for hand washing. Germs can live for several hours on cloth towels. Alternatively, have separate towels for each family member and provide a clean one for guests.
Throw tissues away after use. Used tissues are sources of virus that can contaminate any surface where they are left.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. While there isn’t direct evidence to show that eating well or exercising can prevent colds, maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, with adequate sleep, good nutrition, and physical exercise can help ensure that your immune system is in good condition and ready to fight infection if it occurs.
Control stress. Studies have shown that people experiencing emotional stress have weakened immune systems and are more likely to catch a cold than their calmer counterparts.”
Essential oils will help
What essential oils, because of their chemical components, are useful in treating the symptoms of mucus distress associated with colds and flus? Would breathing issues have the same recommendation? How about the aches and pains caused by the flu?
Essential oils are complex botanical chemical factories with one essential oil containing several chemical family classifications and hundreds of specific chemical variations within those families. One theory about why some plants develop oil sacs is to help protect them from attack. A plant or tree can’t just get up and move to a better location. So many of the oil components are helpful in a variety of ways against “germs.” Some develop better defenses against certain kinds of bacteria, some against viruses, and some against fungi. Many times this can come across as a plant having a little of everything to defend itself or maybe a plant has a lot of just one or two chemical protectants. Learning the chemical families is the best way to understand why an oil can function so many different ways in the body.
Back to the respiratory question. It is easy to remember oils from conifer trees are the lungs of the tree and as such are great supports for the respiratory system. These plants are high in monoterpenes which have a mild effectiveness against most germs and are considered safe for long-term use. There are other classifications of plant chemistries that are also hallmarks of respiratory support, but they have some limitations of usefulness in very young children. The family of Oxides, with 1-8 cineole being the most well known with the dosing, is an important issue to consider. Oxides are in varying amount in the essential oil family of Eucalyptus of which there are over 400 species. Each variety of Eucalyptus has a different chemical make-up and carries various amounts of this 1-8 cineole molecule. Eucalyptus globulus is the essential oil that used to be in Vicks VapoRub chest ointment that so many of us knew as children. It is recommended for children older than five years of age. The Conifers-Pines, Firs, Hemlocks are better choices for the very young as is the Citrus essential oil – Orange. It is also high in monoterpenes.
Based on the chemistry one can understand how combining essential oils can treat the many aspects of a cold-nasal congestion, chest congestion, and spastic cough. Ginger essential oil is one which offers those with a cold such relief as it has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic properties, and is an expectorant. Here’s one oil which gives good value treating many symptoms. As it’s coming up to seasonal celebrations and winter time, think of what was used during the last century. Boughs of evergreens decorated the house inside. On the stove would be a pot filled with water simmering a cinnamon bark stick with pieces of ginger, cloves buds, and orange peels. A super combination for keeping away a multitude of germs! Just be aware that those same essential oils mentioned are much, much stronger than the herbs simmering on the stove and carry dose precautions. Of course if one is fighting a specific organism it is useful to read which oils are most appropriate against that organism.
A brief word about breathing distress. It depends on the cause of the distress. When chest muscles are tight and tense, then anti-spasmodic oils work wonders such as Roman chamomile, ginger, basil, marjoram, and Ylang Ylang. Always difficult to generalize, some oils are helpful for the deep thick kinds of mucus and others for that dry cough that won’t go away. Oils are very helpful for most of the wintertime symptoms of discomfort; I recommend people start by using what oils they already have. They may serve well as most oils have a broad range of chemistries–hence functions!
– Credits: Diane Stredy owner of Tincture of time, LLC • 296 Delaware Avenue , Albany