Prep now for winter colds and the flu
Sept. 30, 2022—Cold and flu season is on its way. Fortunately, there are things you can do now to prepare for cold and flu season. They might help you to avoid getting ill or to feel better if you do.
Get your flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccination is the No. 1 way to prevent the flu. Nearly everyone 6 months or older needs a yearly flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. Your annual flu shot is extra important if you're at high risk for flu complications. Younger children, older adults, pregnant women and people with chronic health problems all fit into this category.
Stock your medicine cabinet and more. When you're looking for relief from cold or flu symptoms, you want it fast—without the need to shop for supplies. Take time now to make sure you have what you'll need. That might include over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen, for aches and cough drops for sore throats.
Talk to a doctor before giving medicines to children, the American Academy of Family Physicians advises. And remember: Too much acetaminophen can harm your liver. So read labels carefully, and don't take more than one cold and flu product that contains this medicine (many products do).
Also, be sure you have:
- Soap and hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of germs—to others and to you. Remind the whole family to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. When you're out and about, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Learn more about how to use hand sanitizers safely and effectively.
- Facial tissues to cover coughs and sneezes. (It's OK to use your elbow if a sneeze sneaks up on you).
- A humidifier. If you catch a cold, spending time in a room with a humidifier may help relieve a cough and stuffy nose.
- COVID-19 test kits. The flu and COVID-19 are not the same, but many symptoms—such as cough, fever and body aches—are common to both. Testing is the best way to know what's wrong.
Keep your doctor's number handy. If you're older or have health conditions that raise your risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 or flu, ask your provider about prescription antiviral medicines.
Taking medication early can help make your illness milder and shorter. What's more, taking antivirals can help you avoid serious complications, like pneumonia. Let your doctor know right away if you think you have the flu or COVID-19.
Stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines too
Remember, flu, cold and COVID-19 viruses can spread at the same time. Protect yourself by staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters—you can get them at the same time as your flu shot.
Learn more ways to handle cold and flu season in our Flu health topic center.