How to stay healthy this cold & flu season

It’s the time of year when the weather cools, the trees change colour, and we prepare for holidays this season. With Thanksgiving coming up, and more people gathering indoors, it will help to know these tips to keep you and your family as safe – and healthy – as possible this fall.
 
Unfortunately, with cooler weather, there is a higher risk of cold and flu this season. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent getting sick, as well as tips to get better as quickly as possible if you do get sick. We also have tips to take care of yourself if you’re caring for others, so you don’t experience burn-out.
 

Prevention


There are many variations of the viruses that cause the flu, and they also change over time. Viruses are spread through direct contact (within one to two metres, airborne transmission) or indirect contact (surfaces).
 
Signs and symptoms of the seasonal flu vary from one person to another but usually include a combination of:
 
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and feeling weak
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Chest discomfort, coughing
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.
 
Most cases of the flu tend to be mild. However, if you do not start to feel better after a few days or if your symptoms get worse, please consult your health care provider.
 
How to help prevent getting and spreading the flu/cold
A woman and a young boy washing their hands over a sink
  • Wash your hands often, using plenty of soap and warm water. Germs can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours.
  • Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often throughout the day.
  • Disinfect common surfaces in your home such as doorknobs and light switches. At work, disinfect items such as your keyboard and telephone.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough, and sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth to keep germs from entering your body.
  • If you become sick, stay at home. This will prevent the spread of germs to other employees in your workplace as well as people you may come into contact with through your daily routine.
  • Talk to your health care provider about the annual flu shot and if that would be the right option for you and your family. Check to see if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
 
We may feel we have this down but it’s always good to review proper hand-washing technique to help prevent getting and spreading the virus.
 
  1. Take off your jewellery. Wet your hand with warm running water.
  2. Apply some soap and create a lather by rubbing your hands together.
  3. Wash all parts of each hand. Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands under warm running water. Leave the water running while you dry your hands.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean disposable towel.
  6. Using the towel as a barrier, turn the faucet off and open the door, then throw the towel into the garbage.
 

Treatment

 
If you get sick:
 
If you do get sick, stay home to help prevent the spread of the flu or potentially COVID-19, according to Health Canada. Avoid close contact with other people until you feel well enough to get back to your usual day-to-day activities. This is especially important for people who have higher chances of developing complications from the flu.
 
Health Canada addresses similarities between flu virus and COVID-19: It can be hard to tell the difference between symptoms of the flu and COVID-19. You can only confirm if you have flu or COVID-19 with a test. If you have symptoms of the flu and haven’t received a negative COVID-19 test, follow COVID-19 prevention measures to help keep others safe. Check with a healthcare professional to see if you should get the COVID-19 booster shot.
 
If someone in your family gets sick:
  • Designate one person as the caregiver.
  • Avoid sharing personal items (such as towels, sheets, food, eating utensils) unless they are properly cleaned after each use.
  • Disinfect surfaces in the home that are frequently touched: doorknobs, switches, computers, telephones, toys etc.
  • Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up bodily fluids.
 
Caring for others without burn-out
 
When we think of caring for ourselves or others, we primarily think of how we can physically protect ourselves; however, this can be mentally exhausting as well – especially if you’re a caregiver - so ensure you take care of your mental health.
 
Here are some other resources to help you look after your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as that of your friends and family: redcross.ca/wellbeing.  

Learn more about taking care of yourself and others by taking a psychological first aid course: redcross.ca/pfa
 
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