Like clockwork, colds, influenza and other respiratory viruses tend to become more prevalent in the fall. However, many of us don’t take the time to prepare for when one of those pesky viruses strikes.
“Generally, we start seeing cases start to pick up in November, peak around the first of the year, then generally go down after that,” says Mark D. Shalauta, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.
Dr. Shalauta has a few tips on how to get ready for cold and flu season.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is prevent infections in the first place. Get vaccinated against the flu (ideally before Halloween), get a COVID-19 booster, if applicable, and look into vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which have recently been approved for certain adults. Also, update your Tdap shot to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, aka whooping cough, if it’s been more than 10 years since your last booster.
The lessons we learned during the pandemic will come in handy during cold and flu season, too. Wash your hands and sanitize often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, keep household surfaces clean and stay home when you’re sick. Masks, though optional, can still be used to filter out germs in public, and can be especially beneficial for people who are elderly or immunocompromised.
Make sure to have access to a device capable of supporting a video visit with a health care provider.
Pick up pharmacy essentials just in case. Toss out any expired medications and stock your medicine cabinet with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, decongestants (if tolerated) and a general cough and cold medicine. Be sure to check with your doctor first if you have high blood pressure. A thermometer and at-home COVID tests are also good to have on hand, as is good old-fashioned chicken (or plant-based) soup.
“Soup’s not really magical, but it definitely helps with hydration,” says Dr. Shalauta. “People with sore throats frequently don't drink enough fluids, and if they have a fever, they’re getting even more dehydrated. Soup replenishes the salt and the fluid and makes your throat feel better.”
This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.