Using Common Sense To Prevent Colds And Flu

First let’s talk about the difference between a cold and “the flu.”

Although both are caused by viruses; a cold generally affects the neck up with congestion. You may experience a runny nose, sore throat, clogged sinuses and a cough. The flu makes you feel miserable all over. You know the “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus” feeling – fever, body aches, dry cough, you name it. The “flu” or influenza is not intestinal in nature; it is upper respiratory. There are more than 200 different viruses which cause colds, that is why our immune systems can’t keep up and develop immunity.

Most colds cause only temporary discomfort and run their course fairly quickly; the influenza virus, however, can result in a much more severe illness. There is no treatment for the cold other than to help alleviate the symptoms, but there are vaccines in place each year for the flu. Remember that antibiotics are used for bacterial infections not for the virus causing cold and flu. It is a guessing game because if you are hit with the flu – influenza – it is beneficial to get an antiviral but it needs to be given in the first 48 hours of your illness. So … call your doctor if you present with a hard, fast fever, chills, cough and significant body aches for their opinion.

How do we not get sick? We often infect ourselves by touching contaminated surfaces. We ride elevators or use the stairs and hold handrails; we touch grocery carts and then rub our eyes or nose and boom we’re infected.

Play the staying-well game by disinfecting surfaces such as grocery carts, turning off faucets with a paper towel and using them to open the door or if need be use your little finger of the non-dominate hand to open doors; and my favorite topic, stay well hydrated and eat foods loaded with anti-oxidants. Wash your hands frequently, if you need to cough or sneeze and don’t have a disposable tissue, use the inside of your elbow – teach others to do this as well – and don’t touch your face.

Staying healthy and boosting your immune system is your best defense. Three immune system wreckers include sitting around too much and not being active, eating a high trans-fats diet and too much sugar. During the height of cold and flu season or especially if you’ve heard of outbreaks it would be best to stay away from crowded areas, especially if you are immune compromised or elderly. Often you’ll see nursing homes restricting visitation as they are experiencing high rates of infection.

It is important to consume foods that will help boost your immune system during an illness. Drink lots of caffeine free, low-sugar drinks and eat plenty of phytochemicals which are plants, dark green, red or yellow vegetables and fruits especially citrus which contain Vitamin C. Two other options to naturally help alleviate symptoms would be garlic or ginger. Garlic contains alliin which is a powerful natural decongestant aiding in the removal of infected mucous and ginger is very soothing to the throat and helps clear passageways, make or look for ginger root tea. Avoid high sugar, high fat junk food.

Call your doctor or seek medical attention if a cough persists for more than two weeks, fever and chills increase or persists for seven days, you have increased difficulty in breathing or faster breathing, a fast heart rate, persistent wheezing, and or chest pain – this may indicate that the virus has spurred a bacterial infection or pneumonia.

Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining out Program.

Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information. Call: 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.