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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

  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.


Join The Conversation
behemoth_the_cat behemoth_the_cat 9 years
in addition to the influenza virus being transmitted more easily in the cold, our immune systems are down during cold weather (as it is a stressful situation for the body) and so the risk of catching the cold/flu is much higher. I should definitely try the flu shot next year!!!
behemoth_the_cat behemoth_the_cat 9 years
I had the flu this winter... it happened towards the end of my ski vacation. It was so bad I had to cancel my flight home and stay at my parents' place for 4 extra days!!!
Fitness Fitness 9 years
Yeah heineken67, it seems like those docs at Harvard might need to rethink their answers a bit. huh?
karlorene karlorene 9 years
got the stomach flu during finals week... prettttty awesome
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Bad memories...
emalove emalove 9 years
Great tips! The flu is the WORST...I've only had it bad once in my life and it was probably the sickest I've ever been.
heineken67 heineken67 9 years
#1 is not entirely correct. The influenza virus is transmitted most effectively in cold, dry conditions. Being in close quarters with sick individuals can increase your likelihood of contracting the flu, but it is incorrect to assert that the weather has nothing to do with it.
millarci millarci 9 years
Thanks for the tips, FitSugar. I had the flu a couple of years ago and it was so gawd awful!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I get green mucas everytime I get sick. I try and fight it off before I got to the doctor though because I hate the fact that she puts me on antibiotics EVERYTIME I get sick.
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