Tuesday February 12, 2019
For many Colorado families, winter means bundling up for outdoor play, snuggling around a cozy fireplace, and entertaining ourselves indoors with board games. But winter also signals cold and flu season, and currently, our state is experiencing the brunt of it.
According to recent data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2,054 people have been hospitalized for the flu since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Flu season started in early October, peaks in February, and will end around April.
Avoid Exposure & Keep Clean
Both colds and the flu are caused by a virus and highly contagious. Viruses spread through the air and live on surfaces, so the best ways to prevent illness are frequent hand washing, avoiding people who are sick, and household cleaning.
Good preventive habits to model and teach kids are:
- Get a flu vaccination.
- Cough and sneeze into an elbow or sleeve.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about as long as singing happy birthday twice).
- Don’t touch your face (eyes, nose, mouth).
Be sure to wipe down communal surfaces in the house like light switches, doorknobs, and counters with disinfectant. If someone in your house has the stomach bug, good chance its norovirus. Research suggests noroviruses can survive on surfaces for up to 42 days, and many household cleaners and disinfecting wipes don’t kill them. Instead, wipe down surfaces — especially the bathroom — with a bleach solution and keep surfaces wet for at least five minutes.
Ugh, Someone Gets Sick
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself or a family member ill this winter. How can you tell whether it’s a cold or flu virus?
The common cold virus affects the upper respiratory tract: nose, throat, head, and chest. Colds come on gradually and consist of sneezing, sore throat, cough, mild aches, and some fatigue. Most colds last about 7 to 11 days and gradually disappear.
Influenza is marked by sudden onset, high fevers/chills, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, lots of coughing, some sneezing, and headache. The flu can last up to two weeks. Potentially, this virus can be serious. If you suspect someone in your family has the flu, see a doctor right away.
While it’s concerning when your child has a fever, Children’s Hospital of Colorado reminds us that fevers turn on the body’s immune system which helps the body fight infection.
Although there’s no cure for the common cold, you can treat symptoms and get some relief:
- Drink plenty of water, juice, tea, and clear broth. Try warm lemon water with honey to loosen congestion.
- Rest and increase sleep. Your body needs to heal.
- Gargle with salt water. Soothe that sore throat. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8-ounces of warm water and gargle in the back of the throat. Note that kids younger than six years old have trouble gargling.
- Relieve fever, aches, pain. Pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin help you feel better. Consult a doctor for the correct medication and dose based on age and weight.
- Set up a humidifier or inhale steam. Moist air soothes dry, cracked nasal passages. Decongest the nose, head, and chest by breathing steam from a hot shower.
Winter can be a challenging time to stay healthy with viruses hanging around and everyone spending more time indoors. Hopefully, your family minimizes the risk and exposure to illness and weathers through this cold and flu season.