You asked, Expert answers ft. Candice Sockett
Hi COLD-FXers, I’m Candice, nurse practitioner. Winter is still at it, and while the end is in sight, I thought I’d help answer some of your cold and flu season questions, so I can help you end the season strong.
1. Is handwashing really helping me?
Effective hand washing is the number one way to protect yourself against catching the cold or flu. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours and on contaminated tissues or cloth for 8 to 12 hours. This means you can come in contact with viruses at any time without knowing it. For this reason, you should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands. When washing your hands, you want to ensure you wash them for at least 15 to 20 seconds using soap and water. I find it helpful to sing a short song in my head while washing my hands. Try singing the ABCS or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This helps to prevent me from rushing while I wash my hands.
2. When do I need to see a doctor?
Most people with cold and flu symptoms can be managed at home with supportive symptom management like getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids or using a humidifier. You should see a Nurse Practitioner or Doctor if:
- you experience trouble breathing at any time
- your symptoms are getting worse after 2 to 3 days of being sick
- you are considered high risk for influenza related complications including:
- those with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart and lung disease
- people who live in long-term care homes and other chronic-care facilities
- all pregnant women
- Indigenous peoples
- children under five years of age
- persons 65 years of age and older
3. Is cold and flu season over in March?
In temperate climates like Canada, the cold and flu season usually begins in the fall and ends towards the end of winter. In warmer climates the cold and flu season can actually last all year long. So, this means we are usually through the worst of it by the end of March. However, some people will continue to get sick into the spring and summer as viruses are always around. So, keep practicing good hygiene year-round.
4. How do I stay protected from cold and flus when I’m around family and friends during March Break?
March Break is a busy time of year for individuals and families. It’s often a time when people travel or catch up with friends and family. This means we are being exposed to more people than usual and ultimately more viruses as well. Keep yourself and your family protected from cold and flu this March Break with three defenders:
- Wash your hands often and avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose with unclean hands – this is the most important defence!
- Get your flu shot – it’s not too late. There is a new influenza (flu) vaccine developed each year that is adapted to the strains that are expected to be present. Getting the flu vaccine can help prevent getting sick, doctor’s appointments and even hospitalization (for severe flu related complications). Ultimately, it can help to ensure you will feel well enough to enjoy your time as you choose.
- Boost your immune system by getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet rich in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, exercise daily and make time for activities that lower your stress level.