As the weather turns and the holidays approach, cold and flu season also makes its annual debut. However, this year, along with the common cold and flu, COVID is still active and present. So, what do you need to know about the cold, flu, and COVID to best protect your family this season? Consider this your comprehensive guide!
How to Tell the Difference Between the Cold, Flu, and COVID
I am often asked about the difference between the common cold, flu, and COVID. While some symptoms overlap, there are a few specific ways to differentiate.
Here are the common symptoms of each to compare and contrast:
|Runny, stuffy nose||Often||Often||Often|
|Loss of taste, smell||Rarely||Rarely||Often|
**Keep in mind that COVID can present with other symptoms- Ex. abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, to name a few. If there is any questions, quarantine yourself.
In addition to symptom analysis, testing is extremely helpful. If you suspect you’ve been infected with COVID, you should get tested 1-3 days after symptom onset. You may need repeat testing as some patients will test negative, in early illness. Depending on symptoms, you can also be tested for the flu. Most tests can be performed at stand alone testing centers, urgent care facilities or emergency departments (if no other option).
Supportive Care Cold, Flu, and COVID
No matter which virus knocked you off your feet, there are many ways to support your immune system and reduce symptoms such as:
- Tylenol: fever-reducer, pain-reliever
- Ibuprofen: fever-reducer, pain-reliever
- Mucinex: many options here- most reduce mucus production and cough + decongestant
- Tea with Honey + Lemon: soothes throat, can reduce cough
- NyQuil: treats cough, sore throat, headache, aches + pains, while helping with sleep
Luckily, all of these remedies can be found over-the-counter at your local drugstore or grocery store. However, if you’re actively sick, be sure to place a delivery order or have a loved one pick up the order for you.
How to Prevent Cold, Flu, and COVID
While risk of sickness is heightened during cold and flu season, there are some preventive measures you can take to help strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of infection.
- Supplement with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.
- ask your doctor to order vitamin D levels, this can help customize your vitamin D supplementation dosage
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Don’t touch your face, including your eyes, mouth, or nose.
- Use hand sanitizer when soap and water is unavailable.
- this goes without saying, but I keep mini sanitizer bottles EVERYWHERE
- Consider wearing a mask in public places.
- Avoid being around those who are sick or recovering from being sick.
- Consider vaccination- talk to your doctor about if you’re a good candidate
How to Safely Gather During the Holidays
The holiday season is a time of gathering and celebration. So, if you’re planning to gather with loved ones this year, be sure to do so safely:
- Be mindful during times of travel. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer.
- Limit the size and frequency of social gatherings. Consider who in your family/friend group is highest risk and come up with a plan for spending time with them safely.
- Gather outdoors, if the weather permits.
- Again, wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
With cold and flu season upon us, it’s important to do what we can to support our health and take preventive measures, when possible. Stay healthy, friends!