Amidst COVID-19, we will soon face another challenge – the 2020-2021 influenza season.
During last year’s flu season, approximately 39 million people found themselves sick with the flu, a viral infection that affects the throat, lungs and nose. What will fall and winter look like this year with both the flu, and COVID? The simple answer to this is that we don’t exactly know yet. However, there are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this season and help keep hospitals from potentially becoming overwhelmed.
Getting the flu shot
Even if you usually find yourself skipping the flu shot, now is the year to get one. Even though we don’t have a vaccine for COVID, it’s important to protect ourselves against the one thing we know we can prevent. High risk populations for influenza include those over 65 years of age, young children, and pregnant women. It’s important to get the vaccine even if you are not part of a high-risk population, as it’s also our duty to protect the ones around us.
Keep up with safety precautions
Winter can be a prime time for other viruses to pop up, and many of the recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID and the flu can also help prevent the spread of other viruses. COVID, as well as the flu, spread through droplets that come out of the mouths of someone who has the virus. Wearing a mask when you’re out in public, social distancing (keeping 6 feet away from others), and frequently washing your hands significantly reduces your risk of catching either virus, as well as spreading it.
Staying home if you are sick with symptoms is also important in curbing the spread. Encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same!
Care for yourself
During this season, it’s important for all of us to practice self-care. This includes getting plenty of rest each night, staying properly hydrated, keeping exercise as a part of your daily routine, and staying on top of stress management. Incorporating these practices into your routine as a family is equally as important. There is no better time to develop, or continue, healthy habits in our daily routines!
Stock up on medicine
Staying home to avoid passing either the flu, or COVID, onto others is extremely important. Some examples of important things to have at home during your recovery include a thermometer, ibuprofen (for muscle aches), fever reducers such as acetaminophen, and cough syrup. For those that are at a higher risk due to underlying conditions, it may also be beneficial to have a pulse oximeter on hand (this measures the oxygen levels in your blood).
Natural cold and flu remedies
It is important to always follow your local health expert’s direction during a pandemic–but there are plenty of natural remedies (to be used alongside what we have recommended above) that can help lessen symptoms and keep you on the path to recovery. It’s also important to note that you should talk to your healthcare provider if you’re considering any kind of alternative medicine. Below, we have listed a few things we can do to help soothe symptoms.
Drink plenty of water and fluids
Whether you have a respiratory or stomach flu, staying well hydrated is extremely important. Water helps us keep our throat, mouth and nose moist, and helps our bodies get rid of any excess phlegm or mucous. You can find yourself dehydrated if you aren’t eating or drinking normally, and diarrhea and fever can cause significant water loss. Below are some ways you can ensure you’re staying hydrated. You will know that you’re well hydrated if you find you have to urinate frequently, or your urine is almost clear (or a pale yellow).
- Herbal teas
- Soups and broths
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Fresh juices
- Sports drinks
Get enough rest
Sleep helps your immune system function at its best, ensuring that viruses and bacteria are warded off. Making sleep a priority during this season is especially important to help you get back on your feet, and keep you feeling your best!
Make sure that your environment isn’t too dry, as influenza tends to spread more easily when it’s dry. Creating a more humid environment in your home may help reduce your exposure to the flu, as well as reducing nasal inflammation, making it easier for you to breathe if you become sick. Adding a diffuser, or humidifier, to your bedroom may help soothe your symptoms.
Gargling with saltwater
Adding this to your routine may help prevent upper respiratory infections and may also decrease the severity of symptoms associated with the cold. Gargling with saltwater helps to loosen and reduce mucous. To try this at home, add 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water, and stir until it’s dissolved. Swish it around in your mouth and throat, and then spit it out.
Eat foods that alleviate symptoms
While there is no cure for the flu, there are plenty of foods that you can incorporate into your diet that help soothe symptoms (and may also shorten how long you have the flu).
- Chicken soup
- Vitamin C
Always carefully self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and contact your health provider service if symptoms develop.
During these times, it’s extremely important to stay on top of safety precautions, self-care, and caring for the ones around you. After all, we’re all in this together.