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Preparing for Cold and Flu Season

January 23, 2017
Millions of cases of the common cold and flu are reported in the United States each year. Both are common respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms but are caused by different viruses. Below are some tips to help avoid illnesses this season and how to find symptom relief if you do get sick.


Cold symptoms are similar to symptoms of the flu but are usually more mild and sufferers are more likely to experience runny or stuffy noses. Colds can occur any time of the year but the majority occur between November and March.

Unfortunately, there are no vaccines or antibiotics for the common cold. If you do contract a cold, you can shorten the duration of symptoms by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and using humidifiers or vaporizers. Many over-the-counter medications may help relieve the symptoms of the common cold:


Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and are characterized by: fever or chills; cough/sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; and tiredness. Flu activity usually peaks between December and February in the United States.

The majority of flu cases need to just run their course. The best treatment is rest and plenty of fluids but there are some over-the-counter medications that can help reduce symptoms:
  • Aches and Pains: Pain relievers with acetaminophen like Tylenol, ibuprofen like Motrin or Advil, and naproxen like Aleve can help to relieve pain and reduce fevers that are often associated with the flu.
  • Stuffy nose: Decongestants like NyQuil Severe and DayQuil Severe provide relief from nasal symptoms.

OTC medicines will help relieve symptoms of colds and the flu but will not shorten the length of time of the illness. Not all products are recommended for all ages and should be used as directed. Consult your doctor to see what course of treatment is best for your situation.


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Mayo Clinic
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