While contagious viruses are active year-round, fall and winter are when we’re most vulnerable to them. This is due in large part to people spending more time indoors with others when the weather gets cold.
Most respiratory bugs come and go within a few days, with no lasting effects. However, some cause serious health problems. People who use tobacco or who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more prone to respiratory illnesses and more severe complications than nonsmokers.
Colds usually cause stuffy or runny nose and sneezing. Other symptoms include coughing, a scratchy throat, and watery eyes. There is no vaccine against colds, which come on gradually and often spread through contact with infected mucus.
Flu comes on suddenly and lasts longer than colds. Flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, dry cough, body aches, fatigue, and general misery. Like colds, flu can cause a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. Young children may also experience nausea and vomiting with the flu. Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it.
Flu season in the United States may begin as early as October and can last as late as May, and generally peaks between December and February. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized from flu-related complications each year, including 20,000 children younger than age 5.
- Between 1976 and 2006, the estimated number of flu-related deaths every year ranged from about 3,000 to about 49,000.
- In the 2013 – 2014 season, there were in the U.S. 35.4 million influenza-associated illnesses, 14.6 medically attended flu illnesses, and 314,000 flu hospitalizations.
- Prevention Tips
Get vaccinated against flu.
With rare exceptions, everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against flu. Flu vaccination, available as a shot or a nasal spray, can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work and school, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
It’s ideal to be vaccinated by October, although vaccination into January and beyond can still offer protection. Annual vaccination is needed because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may need to be updated, and because a person’s immune protection from the vaccine declines over time. Annual vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu. These people include:
- young children under 5 years, but especially those younger than 2.
- pregnant women
- people with certain chronic health conditions (like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease)
- people age 65 years and older
Vaccination also is especially important for health care workers, and others who live with or care for people at high risk for serious flu-related complications. Since babies under 6 months of age are too young to get a flu vaccine, their mother should get a flu shot during her pregnancy to protect them throughout pregnancy and up to 6 months after birth. Additionally, all of the baby’s caregivers and close contacts should be vaccinated as well.
Wash your hands often. Teach children to do the same. Both colds and flu can be passed through contaminated surfaces, including the hands. FDA says that while soap and water are best for hand hygiene, alcohol-based hand rubs may also be used. However, dirt or blood on hands can render the hand rubs unable to kill bacteria.
Try to limit exposure to infected people. Keep infants away from crowds for the first few months of life.
Practice healthy habits.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Do your best to keep stress in check.
Usually, colds have to run their course. Gargling with salt water may relieve a sore throat. And a cool-mist humidifier may help relieve stuffy noses.
Here are other steps to consider:
- Call your health care professional. Start the treatment early.
- Limit your exposure to other people. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay hydrated and rested. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated products which may dehydrate you.
- Talk to your health care professional to find out what will work best for you.
In addition to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, there are FDA-approved prescription medications for treating flu. Cold and flu complications may include bacterial infections (e.g., bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, and pneumonia) that could require antibiotics.
Read medicine labels carefully and follow the directions. People with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, should check with a health care professional or pharmacist before taking a new cough and cold medicine.
Choose OTC medicines appropriate for your symptoms. To unclog a stuffy nose, use nasal decongestants. Cough suppressants quiet coughs; expectorants loosen mucus; antihistamines help stop a runny nose and sneezing; and pain relievers can ease fever, headaches, and minor aches.
Check the medicine’s side effects. Medications can cause drowsiness and interact with food, alcohol, dietary supplements, and each other. It’s best to tell your health care professional and pharmacist about every medical product and supplement you are taking.
Check with a health care professional before giving medicine to children.
See a health care professional if you aren’t getting any better. With children, be alert for high fevers and for abnormal behavior such as unusual drowsiness, refusal to eat, crying a lot, holding the ears or stomach, and wheezing.
Signs of trouble for all people can include
- a cough that disrupts sleep
- a fever that won’t respond to treatment
- increased shortness of breath
- face pain caused by a sinus infection
- high fever, chest pain, or a difference in the mucus you’re producing, after feeling better for a short time.
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
Updated December 23, 2014
|As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas and super Typhoon Mangkhut devastated the Philippines and parts of China, the streets of San Francisco were also flooded last week by tens of thousands of people demanding greater, more urgent action to address the global climate crisis.Led by the native Coastal Miwok and Ohlone peoples of the Bay Area and indigenous peoples from around the world, over 30,000 demonstrators filled Market Street in the largest West Coast mobilization for climate justice ever. The “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” march in San Francisco was one of over 900 actions in 95 countries calling on governments and institutions to leave fossil fuels in the ground and commit to 100% renewable energy.Amazon Watch made sure that a delegation of the Kichwa indigenous peoples from Sarayaku was also there. They made the long journey from deep inside the Ecuadorian Amazon to share their solution to the climate crisis, their Kawsak Sacha, or Living Forest Proposal, which they publicly launched in Ecuador this summer. This visionary proposal would create a new international category for the permanent protection of native land, free of natural resource extraction and based upon the interconnected relationship between indigenous peoples and all the living beings within their their forests and waters.|
Just another rant …On Jan 21 we all saw posts on social media cheering for America’s new president and had to respond.
I admit trump won the Electoral vote but he did not win the popular vote which is more important to most Americans who believe in one person one vote. Obviously, America seemed stunned at how election 2016 turned out and though there was talk about the electoral vote and how changes to the caucus, delegate rules and processes, which have been a subject of debate for years- republicans are feeling themselves and doing little on all levels least we talk about the number of actual Sessions held in Congress. Unfortunately, the electoral process not only gave us trump some folks … the trump trifecta don’t seem to be that worried or interested in much else than getting life time judges appointed rather than preparing for another cyber attack in 2018 or 2020 let alone how to improve the caucus and delegate rules.
Ah… to be an American in this era of trump, who started his bid for president by shouting that Obama is not an American? If you follow his rise, and I do not use that word loosely, we are definitely still hearing folks comparing him to Hitler, maybe Mussolini ,while seemingly supporting white nationalists and or supremacists as well. Yes, some say he is acting a little like Napoleon, or dreams of being a king and yes it is all snarky … but ultimately a dictator; none of which is accepted or the norm here in the US of A. I voted for Hillary, supported her without question knowing what we had …it was a binary choice. This man is NOT presidential material, cannot fix our problems alone, he is NOT our savior nor does he care about his constituents who sadly were/are misinformed in my opinion. Apparently, with the fear being tossed around his constituents are all too willing to be pushed and verbally shoved into whatever direction they need to change the balance of white V nonwhite America?
However, the change that is coming is one that will appear positive by all those in his camp and given the position of power the President has, #teamtrump can and will do anything they want. The thing is, our end result seems to be headed in a negative direction. Why do I say this, any person with so much power should know not to act out with revenge in your mind, he has a reputation, is called a narcissist in all its forms; so what we have had to experience for the last 2 years will not only impact Hillary voters but his constituents who continue to vote against their better interests, and as we witness all the rollbacks of the Obama legacy, his administrations reach will be long and global in ways that will take years to clean up or correct. I first posted this in 2017, Today the news is covering his comments at the UN Assembly, tariffs, his SCOTUS nomination and as we watch the stock market take a dive on numerous occasions; I continue to be reminded of the house of bush #financialcollapse of 2007 and hope for the best. We have heard him disparage people of colour,women,lgbt,trans and has stated it was planning on making folks in the US eat from dry goods boxes while taking money from countries that need help to cope with drought, disease and health care issues that impact children and women etc. Do folks on the right even know that $15billion with a B cut in spending includes a $7billion of social services for children?
I believe in choice, so the effing idea that women should be punished for making decisions about her own body is crazy in itself but this man has just made it impossible for Americans to help women globally with the Reagan gag rule…Do they know the number of unsafe-abortions may increase certainly along with other reproductive issues women have and will most definitely continue- in all probability, end up in a rise in the rate of mortality among women globally?
This man is a failing protectionist, acting as an isolationist with white nationalists seemingly standing side by side. History speaks to us rejecting this behavior so you have to wonder, will trump be the thing, that vehicle for women on both sides of the political aisle as well as race as a common denominator to vote out asap?! The poll numbers obviously suggest women see or are seeing that this man should not be in power but enormous numbers of women are marching not just in America but globally and while he is only talking to his constituents this carpetbagger can’t help but make all his speeches about him. He has stomped on our constitution already, broken what most will say are American values and while republicans wring their hands in joy, their corrupt behavior will show itself as some of our economist suggest could be another ride into another ditch with all the costs created by actions like moving the Israel embassy, repealing ACA just to name two lest we talk about block granting education ending Medicaid and increasing qualifiers reinstating others that restrict health care … this man is NOT the savior but an emperor wannabe though he seems to act as if he was voted in as a king … hopefully, his voters will see the light in time.
People of colour feel our rights our bodies will now be targets and a threat while living as Americans depending upon what city is most likely to take his comments literally. If or will their social norms make them choose to act above the rule of law, least we talk about how folks interpret trump’s rhetoric and unfortunately will be spread as often as he holds rallies for the people to see him and how far his communication staff are willing to go and say whatever it takes to keep his followers. Is it possible, is it apparent that this era of trump needed to happen to America …equality, freedom and the pursuit of happiness seemed to be sliding away … hopefully not gone, just a wicked storm before the reboot to a better America …right?
On January 26,2017 when trump whipped his pen of revenge out and seemingly took America back to the dark ages in just a couple of minutes then moved on to other acts of hypocrisy on the regular
Our country is NOT moving toward a more perfect union but I believe that we must gain insight, become mindful, analyze all that must get done before election 2018; we need to be 2-4 steps ahead of the trump administration and while I completely disagree with a couple of pro-trump bloggers, one was kind enough to accept opposition comments. I also admitted I understand their point, said as much when we elected Obama and watched as the opposition party in congress pledged to do nothing … So, as bill after bill had some kind of stipulation or nasty pill /rider attached to it; no one addressed stagnant wages, 21st century living, climate, renewables or jobs and while babies were/still are being killed by guns; infrastructure among other things were all put on hold unless and until republicans could get the trifecta to make change their way. Thing is, they have done nothing to improve the status of Americans below 2% and our social programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid —- which btw we all pay into are at risk in the hands of this trifecta, “affordable healthcare” for regular folk is at risk … FACT! and how ironic is it that congress enjoys good health care paid for by US taxpayers … yet, women seem to be wearing scarlet letters or phrase of #preexistingcondition
I say he is talking in WNcode… Has anyone in the US of A thought we would have to deal with freedom of speech and or censorship on this level, yet this government of trump seems to want absolute power of the people or at least the press and control women, tell scientists that any and all information about climate has to pass a White House review panel before the public sees it or that a joint government/nonprofit summit can be and have been canceled by a President? This is offensive and should be considered inappropriate autocratic behavior imo. The notion of being told to have babies let alone comply or be punished is insane, that the media needs to shut their mouths, torture works though it’s against the Geneva convention, that we should have taken the Iraqi oil or that nukes should be available to all while sidestepping the 1st Amendment … maybe a lot of other amendments as team trump hearkens back to a time when men(white mean) who governed considered themselves to be the only legitimate Americans and suffice it say there weren’t many amendments back then to protect what we now call folks in “protected classes” So, I am resisting. I am not naive; but I am hoping that enough folks who usually sit on the sidelines will finally see through the bull before November 6th, while others continue the fight to end his trifecta in 2018.
Thanks for letting me exercise the 1st amendment