As the weather gets colder and expected snow could hit us at any time here in Michigan, the season of colds, sniffles, the flu, and other illnesses is upon us. Though colds are often treated nonchalantly, they can have a serious negative effect on our health, tend to affect us for longer than expected, and may leave us feeling tired and achy. Over 50% of MSU students reported having colds or flu last year and as a busy student, catching any kind of illness amidst a hectic semester is the last thing you have time for. However there are a number of ways you can prevent and treat these illnesses so that they don’t have lasting effects.
The Difference between the Common Cold and the Flu
The biggest differences between the common cold and seasonal influenza are the symptoms. Common cold symptoms include sore throat followed by a runny nose and cough. Fevers tend to not occur in adults, but are more common with children. The seasonal influenza has similar symptoms yet it affects people faster and tends to be more severe. These symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches, soreness, congestion, and cough. In both cases the cold and flu are caused by viruses passed from person to person by germs.
8 Tips to Treat Colds & Flu the “Natural” Way (WebMD)
- Blow your nose: “It’s important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can cause an ear ache. The best way to blow your nose: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other. Wash your hands after blowing your nose.”
- Stay rested: Staying well-rested when you first start experiencing signs of having a cold or flu helps bolster your immune system and have energy levels needed for fighting off viruses.
- Gargle: Adding a spoonful of salt to a glass of warm water and gargling can temporarily ease the pain of a sore throat.
- Drink hot liquids: warm liquids help to prevent dehydration and can relieve nasal congestion.
- Take a steamy shower: the steam from the shower will sooth the inflamed membranes of your nose and throat, not to mention its relaxing qualities.
- Apply hot or cold packs around congested sinuses:
- Sleep with an extra pillow: elevation of the head can help relieve the pressure on your nasal passage and help with drainage.
- Don’t fly unless necessary: the change in pressure from flying can hurt your eardrums and make you feel worse then you did before.
Seasonal Influenza can be somewhat prevented by an annual flu vaccination. This shot is annual because the strain of flu viruses mutates and changes each year, therefore affecting humans differently. When people receive a flu shot antibodies develop in the body and protect against the viruses that were part of the vaccination. A flu shot is especially important for people who are at risk for flu complications. Pre-existing medical conditions (asthma and diabetes), pregnant women, and people younger than 5 and people over 65 are at high levels of risk. The flu vaccination takes two weeks to take effect as the antibodies need time to build up and take effect. It is best to get the shot earlier in the flu season rather than later.
As a student at Michigan State there are a variety of ways for you to prevent and heal from seasonal illnesses. The Olin Health Center, located on East Circle Drive, provides students with 3 free visits a year. Olin offer the flu shot at the main office (call 517-353-4660 to schedule an appointment) or they offer the flu shot in the Neighborhood Clinics across campus as well. Most pharmacies in the area, such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc. also offer the shot. You may also schedule an appointment through the Ingham County Health Department (517) 887-4316 or attend one of their open clinics, the final clinic which is being held next week on October 30th, follow the link for more info: (http://hd.ingham.org/Home/Immunizations/SeasonalFlu.aspx ).
www.flu.gov is also a good tool for finding vaccination sites in your area. Regardless of which path you chose to take there are a number of resources to help you keep seasonal illnesses at bay this winter and stay healthy.
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