Keeping your family healthy during the cold and flu season

February 11, 2020 by James Hickey, D.O.
Keeping your family healthy during the cold and flu season

The holiday season can be a time when people will travel great distances to see family, share proximity with many people in a home, and cook food for one another. However, most people undoubtedly have a story where they’ve came back from holiday travel or gatherings with more than just a full belly… usually in the form of a cold or flu. These illnesses are not enjoyable to experience, they can be frightening to parents when their young ones contract them, and they make up millions of ER, urgent care, and primary care visits across the nation on a yearly basis. 

Common cold viruses are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Cold viruses infect the respiratory tract and each year in the United States there are millions of cases of the common cold. Symptoms usually include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, body aches. Most people recover within about 7-10 days. There is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.

Influenza (Flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. People who receive the flu shot typically have less severe symptoms than people who do not receive it. If a person contract flu, there are some treatments available if care is sought out early.

Viruses can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can help reduce your risk of getting these viruses: Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay away from people who are sick. 

If you have a cold, you should follow these tips to help prevent spreading it to other people:

  • Stay at home while you are sick and keep children out of school or daycare while they are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs.

You should call your doctor if you or your child has one or more of these conditions:

  • symptoms that last more than 10 days
  • symptoms that are severe or unusual
  • if your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a fever or is lethargic

Your doctor can determine if you or your child has a cold or the flu and can recommend treatment to help with symptoms.

*Evidence used for this article and further information can be found at: 


James Hickey, D.O.