It’s also officially cold and flu season in Chicago. Of course, it’s always best to avoid getting sick in the first place, but if you do come down with a bug, here are some tips to help you get back to better health in a timely fashion.

Basic Tips for Avoiding the Flu or a Cold

Wash your hands often with soap and water, ideally for at least 30 seconds, or with an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after coughing or sneezing and before eating. Because the colder months are typically drier than warmer months, remember to moisturize your hands often as well to avoid cracking in the skin. Breaks in the skin make you even more susceptible to illness because your skin is your first exterior line of defense.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, use the upper part of your sleeve or the inside of your shirt. Cold and flu bacteria and viruses are easily airborne, so the more you can limit those particles floating around, the better the chance you’ll have of avoiding getting sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Those openings are easy pathways for pathogens to enter your system.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick; give them space and time to get better (unless they need help getting some remedies, but then simply drop them off and split!).

Stay home when you’re sick. Don’t be one of those people who goes into work and spreads all those germs around. Stay home a day or two, rest up and catch up on your favorite shows.

Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, especially when someone is sick. Items like your phone and door handles are frequently forgotten. If you’re working out in a gym, which are cauldrons for germs, consider wiping down any benches or weights you’re using.

Treat your body well; get plenty of sleep, manage your stress, drink plenty of healthy fluids (water, tea, etc.), eat nutritious foods, stay physically active and take quality supplements. All of these actions work in concert to keep your body healthy and immune system active.

Related: Prevent dehydration with these tips

Consider getting a flu shot. This is a more personal decision, as the flu vaccine is never foolproof with the flu virus constantly changing, and some believe that the shot can trigger the virus in some populations. For instance, it was estimated that the 2018 flu vaccine was about 47% effective, while the vaccine for 2017 was only 36% effective.

What if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions but you still get sick? How can you tell if you have a cold or the flu?

Cold symptoms are usually milder than the flu, and people with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose than people with the flu. The flu often comes on suddenly and the symptoms are more severe.

Some common symptoms of the flu include:
• Fever or chills (older adults may not have a fever)
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

Once you’ve determined if you’ve come down with a cold or the flu, it’s time to take action.

Take it easy and stay home. When you’re feeling under the weather, try to get as much sleep and rest as possible. Resting helps your body divert its energy and resources to fighting the infection. Staying home also lessens the chance you will infect others while you’re at your most contagious stage. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you could also call your health care provider. Your provider can prescribe antiviral medication to lessen the impact of the flu.

Speaking of medications, over-the-counter medicines can help. Pain-relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with chills, aches and sinus pain.

Drink plenty of fluids. Especially with a fever, you could be sweating more and losing fluids via vomiting or diarrhea. Water, teas and soup broth can help symptoms, especially hot tea with lemon. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Try to eat healthy foods. Your body needs nutrients to fight the infection, so try to eat fruits and veggies that have an array of vitamins and minerals.

Now that the cold and flu season is upon us, hopefully these tips will help keep you healthy during the holidays, or at least aid in a speedy recovery!

Related: Boost your immune system with these healthy recipes

Post written by FFC Pilates and Group Exercise Instructor David Bohn.