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Germwatch: Cold and Flu Season is Here

As we near the holidays and the first day of winter, we are also approaching peak cold and flu season.

In recent weeks, Jenilee Lawrence, MD, has seen a large influx of adult patients suffering from the common cold at UVA Primary and Specialty Care Zion Crossroads.

cold and flu season is here
There has been an influx of patients with cold viruses at UVA Primary and Specialty Care Zion Crossroads.

Tips for Treating the Common Cold

“Treatment of the common cold is really about supportive care. These things can help reduce the symptoms but don’t actually reduce the duration of your cold,” says Lawrence.

For nasal congestion:

  • Nasal or sinus rinses
  • Over the counter decongestants
  • Taking a hot shower

For aches and pains:

  • Pain relievers like Tylenol

Lawrence often advises patients to be cautious with their use of Tylenol, because many cold medicines also contain acetaminophen. The daily maximum is 3,000mg, so be sure to check your labels. Too much acetaminophen can be dangerous for your liver.

For a cough:

  • Cough medicines that contain both dextromethorphan and guaifenesin
  • Warm drinks like hot tea with honey

Lawrence also recommends drinking plenty of fluids, getting lots of rest and staying home from work, if you can, to prevent spreading the cold to others.

When to See Your Doctor

It’s usually time to see a doctor when symptoms have lasted more than 10 to 14 days or you have a fever or body aches. If that’s the case, and you don’t seem to be getting any better, you may have the flu or bronchitis.

Flu Season Could Be Severe

According to Lawrence, this flu season is projected to be pretty severe. They’ve seen a few cases of the flu at Zion Crossroads already but don’t expect it to peak until the early months of 2018.

Cold & Flu Resources

Read the November Germwatch for tips on treating children with a cold.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from the flu, check out Dr. Lawrence’s recent Facebook live video.

Experts expect that the flu shot won’t be quite as effective. However, it will still provide some protection against this season’s flu strains.

“We recommend that everyone still get the flu shot, including our pediatric patients,” says Lawrence.

Staying Healthy During the Holidays

Here are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from catching the cold or the flu:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Drink a lot of fluids
  • Get enough rest
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid eating too many sweets

Stress management also plays an important factor. The holidays can be a stressful time of year, and high stress can increase your chances of getting sick. Lawrence likes to remind people to make time during the holidays to take care of themselves. “Exercise, meditation, mindfulness activities, or even just a few moments of quiet time to help re-center yourself can help.”

Feeling sick? Need help with your 2018 health goals?

Find a primary care location near you and make an appointment.

Establish a Relationship with a Doctor

As you start to think about health goals for the new year, establishing a relationship with a physician should be on the list, if you don’t have one already.

“It’s important to have a regular physician that you see, even if it’s only once or twice a year for a checkup. So, whenever you have an urgent issue that comes up, you can see a physician who you’re familiar with,” Lawrence says.

She adds, “Now is a great time to come see us if you need help setting health goals for 2018. I really enjoy helping new patients figure out what their health goals are and how to achieve them in a simple, yet sustainable way.”

The Germwatch series provides information on what’s going around in our community as well as popular reasons for primary care visits.

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