The changing leaf colors, the chilly nights, and spooky movies are starting to play on your television. But, what is happening to your health? You develop a little scratch in your throat but you don’t think much of it. Allergies, perhaps? Soon, you get a runny nose and a full-blown cough – welcome to cold and flu season. While we are still a few weeks away from the official start of “flu season,” that doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself and stay healthy.

So, what exactly is the “flu?”

  • Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness.

What is the difference between the common cold and the flu?

  • The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.

What can you do when someone you know gets the cold or the flu?

The CDC has a list of preventive actions that you can take to keep you healthy:

  • Try to avoid contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Also, use hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu germs. Invest in buying some Clorox wipes and some Lysol spray. Be sure to do counter tops, door knobs, door handles, etc.

What can you do if you happen to get the common cold or the flu?

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick. You won’t spread your germs so others won’t get sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when you or someone else is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.