Dr. Erin Hanssen shares practical advice about infections during cold and flu season.

1. Prevention

  • Get the flu shot!
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t touch the mucous membranes on your face (eyes, nose, mouth) as those are the entry points for these viruses into your system
  • Open door knobs with your sleeve or gloved hand
  • Do your community a service and stay home from work, school, daycare if you are sick

2. Treatment

  • An overwhelming majority of infections during cold and flu season are viral. This means that antibiotics, like penicillin, do NOT help you recover.
  • This doesn’t mean that viral infections, particularly the flu, cannot cause serious illness and occasionally be fatal
  • Overwhelmingly, treatment is directed at the symptoms caused by the viral illness. For example:
    • Cough: 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey (if > 1 year old), a VapoRub on the chest, lozenges
    • Congestion: saline nasal/sinus rinses, decongestants in certain circumstances
    • Sore throat: fluids, lozenges, salt gargles, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
    • Headache, body aches, joint aches: acetaminophen or ibuprofen
    • Pink, swollen, gritty feeling eye: cold compresses (eg., chamomile tea bag), preservative free artificial tears
    • Eye discharge: wash lids with tear free baby shampoo
  • Do not underestimate your need for rest and time to recover from any infection

3. Disclaimer

  • When in doubt, be assessed by your family doctor or in the emergency room!