Every year it’s the same: people start getting sick and suddenly all of the witch doctors come out. People at the office swear by things like rubbing mentholadum on your feet at night, drinking only certain types of tea, eating lots of onions and garlic and whatever the latest over the counter “miracle drug” might be. It’s enough to make you want to take a job working from home and having all of your food and other supplies delivered, just so you don’t have to deal with it all.
Before you cloister yourself, though, it’s important to know that there are some things that you can do to keep all of those pesky germs from getting into your system and keeping you from doing all of the things you want to do.
1. Get a Flu Shot
Yes, seriously. Even if you are as healthy as a horse, a flu shot is your best defense against colds and flus. While it’s true that a flu shot cannot protect you against every type and strain of cold or flu out there, it’s still your best bet. Flu vaccines work so well because every year, medical researchers look at the data for the previous year and develop vaccines based upon which strains of flu were most prevalent the year before. There is also a lot of guesswork that goes into this process. Nationwide Medical notes in their blog that because flu viruses are constantly mutating, medical researchers must base their vaccines on a number of competing factors.
2. Find Out What You’re Dealing With
A lot of people think that “cold,” “flu,” and “virus” are interchangeable terms but they aren’t. Before you can truly fight against a bug, you have to know what kind of bug it is. Philly.com recently published a basic rundown on the differences between them. According to the site, a cold is actually a virus, which means that it can’t be “cured” with drugs; you simply have to let it run its course. The primary difference between a cold and a flu is severity. A cold is relatively minor and feels more like a lengthy allergy attack.
A flu, on the other hand, is more severe and includes things like fever, muscle aches and a sore (as opposed to just a scratchy) throat. A flu, if caught early on, can be treated and cured with anti viral drugs. Even without drugs, flus, like colds, usually only last about a week. If it lasts longer or if you have a fever that lasts more than three days, you need to see a doctor. You might have a bacterial infection or something more severe than a common cold or flu.
3. Treat Your Symptoms
Here’s the truth about over the counter medications: they do not actually fight the germs. What they do is mask the symptoms of whatever is making you sick so that you can be more comfortable. Even so, says USA Today, there is danger for misuse. Make sure you read the ingredients and know what the actual drug names are (for example, Tylenol is just a brand name for acetaminophen).
Beyond that, treat only the symptoms you actually have now. Do not anticipate future symptoms and try to ward them off with OTC meds. It is also important that you mind any current medical issues you have and choose OTC meds that won’t exacerbate them or put you at risk of bigger medical problems.
4. Rest and Let Yourself Be Sick
When you have a cold or the flu, your symptoms are actually productive. That runny nose is annoying but it helps your body flush out bacteria. The same is true for your cough. A cough is meant to expel foreign matter and germs so that you can heal and get better. Sometimes, as much as you might not like it, the best thing you can do is give in to the symptoms and just feel them.
And of course, wash your hands a lot, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids!