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Cold Hard Facts: The Flu

The flu bug is flying around and the doctors at Harvard Medical School know that we all have some questions on the subject. Fortunately for us they have the answers for five commonly asked questions about colds and the flu. Here are highlights:


  1. Why do colds and the flu increase in the Winter?
    The reason has nothing to do with the temperature, at least not directly. Cold weather itself does not cause these illnesses, but people are more likely to stay indoors and spread germs to one another when it’s cold outside.

  2. When should I stay home from work or keep my child home from school?
    It is important to stay home when you are most contagious. For colds, you are contagious the entire time you have symptoms, but you are most contagious right after you contract the cold, before you even have symptoms. For the flu, adults are most infectious from the day before symptoms start until about the fifth day of symptoms.

  3. When should I see my doctor?
    If you experience complications such as high fever, shaking chills, chest pain with each breath, coughing that produces thick, yellow-green mucus, or if your symptoms do not go away as quickly as you would expect them to, see your doctor.

    To find out how to keep your contagions to yourself, just read more

  4. How can I avoid passing my cold or flu on to my family?
    There are many steps you can take to try to avoid spreading germs to the people around you. Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Throw used tissues away immediately. Wash your hands often, especially after you sneeze, cough, or touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Keep your distance from others — don’t kiss, hug, or stand so close to someone that saliva might get on them when you talk. Make sure someone is disinfecting household surfaces and items frequently, including children’s toys.

  5. Is it OK to get a flu shot when I have a cold?
    Yes, you can get vaccinated when you have a cold as long as you are not feeling very sick and do not have a fever.

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