While the COVID-19 pandemic is still prevalent, we need to keep in mind that there is an additional threat around the corner: influenza. The overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season has many people concerned about the future.
In this blog post, we’ll go over the differences between the flu and COVID-19, how to keep yourself healthy during flu season, how to keep your home and workspace clean and disinfected, and what to do if you do get sick.
When is Flu Season?
Flu season is usually between October and April, peaking between December and February, but preemptive measures can be taken at any time. However, a person can still get sick with the flu during the summer.
Colder months tend to be favorable for the flu, which is why more people get sick between December and February. However, knowing when flu season typically starts will allow you to start preparing early to avoid getting sick.
Differences Between the Flu and COVID-19
There are several important differences to note between COVID-19 and influenza. Someone with COVID-19 will usually take longer to develop symptoms than someone with the flu.
The flu typically shows symptoms from 1 to 4 days after infection, whereas COVID-19 generally shows about 5 days later. COVID-19 is also contagious for a longer amount of time than the 1-4-day period of influenza, being contagious for at least 10 days after a positive test.
Additionally, a notable symptom of COVID-19 that is not shared with influenza is the loss of taste or smell. That said, there are many similarities between the two. Symptoms of both COVID-19 and influenza include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
Preventative Measures to Take to Avoid Getting the Flu
One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy during flu season and avoid getting the flu is to maintain a healthy immune system. There are many ways to boost your immune system naturally, including lifestyle changes, vitamin supplements, and diets.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Get an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep, ideally 7-8 hours
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Wash your hands regularly
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fiber
- Talk to your healthcare provider about other options
Additionally, there are supplements and vitamins that help with immune system strength, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
Keeping Your Home and Workspace Clean
Keeping your home and workspace clean and disinfected is another way to help prevent the flu. The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so it’s important to disinfect high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, light switches, and office equipment on a daily basis.
Wearing rubber gloves while cleaning can reduce the likelihood of spreading germs as they can be taken off and thrown away or cleaned, thereby minimizing the spread of bacteria.
Hand towels, sheets, and other bedding should be washed in hot water with detergent, which will help to kill any bacteria and viruses.
Disinfecting wipes are a must during flu season as they can be disposed of after use and be safely used on high-touch office electronics like phones and printers.
What to do if You Get Sick
You can do everything listed above and still get sick as there is no way to prevent the flu with 100% certainty. So, what do you do if you do come down with the flu?
The most important thing is to stay home. The flu virus is easily spread from person to person, so it is crucial that you stay home and away from other people.
Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and fluids. Treat fever and chills with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You may be tempted to drink ice water, but if your throat is very sore it may be hard to swallow, so try lukewarm water, juice, or decaffeinated tea instead.
One of the most common flu symptoms is sinus congestion, which can make sleeping difficult as anyone who has experienced a cold or flu can tell you. Blowing your nose too aggressively or frequently can lead to a bloody nose, earache, or even a ruptured eardrum.
Additionally, even the softest tissues eventually lead to chafing around the nose area, which can be very painful. It’s a good idea to keep a tub of Vaseline on hand during flu season to help soothe a raw nose.
A great solution to a stuffy nose is peppermint, which contains menthol, a natural decongestant. Peppermint essential oil can be found in many drugstores and can be used with a diffuser. Alternately, peppermint extract can be found in the cooking aisle at supermarkets and has a similar effect.
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can easily replicate the process by filling a sink with hot water and pouring a few drops of peppermint into the hot water, then leaning over the sink with a towel draped over your head to catch the steam. The combination of the menthol in the peppermint and the steam will help clear your nasal passages, allowing for an easier and more effective sleep, which in turn leads to a faster recovery.
There are many things you can start doing right now to avoid the flu, but it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor if you have additional concerns. Making sure your office and home spaces are disinfected and clean is a great first step if you’re wondering how to prevent the flu, and practicing healthy habits like getting enough sleep and staying hydrated are incredibly helpful if you’re looking for a healthy immune system.