Cold and Flu Questions Answered

Each year, as many as 20% of Americans get the flu, and close to one billion Americans suffer from colds. Despite the prevalence of these seasonal infections, people continue to have numerous misconceptions. A report from Harvard Medical School debunks common myths and dishes the facts you need to know during this year's cold and flu season.

1. When is a good time to stay home from work or keep a child out of school? It's important to stay home during the most contagious stretch of your infection. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when that is. A cold is contagious during the entire time there are symptoms, but you are most likely to spread the cold right after you catch the virus - before symptoms start. For the flu, you are most infectious from the day before symptoms until the 5th day of symptoms.

2. When is a good time to see a doctor? It's recommended to pay your doctor a visit if you are experiencing a high fever, shaking chills, chest pain with each breath, coughing that produces thick green mucus, dehydration, or worsening of an already existing medical condition.

3. Why do colds and flu increase only during the winter? People are more likely to remain indoors during cold weather, so spreading germs is easier. Also, the dry winter air is a favorable environment for virus transmission.

 4. Should I "feed a cold or starve a fever"? No, there is no reason to eat more or less than usual, but do drink plenty of fluids.

 5. Is it safe to get a flu shot if I have a cold? Yes, a flu vaccination is safe as long as you are not feeling overly sick and do not have a fever.


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