Tips on Guarding Against the Cold and the Flu

It is that time of year again when the calendar turns to October that the weather noticeably becomes chillier with more rainfalls. Time to bundle up as the cold and flu bugs are going to be lurking around to infect people.

It is estimated that 72 percent of Canadians in total will be affected by some type of cold or flu symptoms at least once each year. Adults can average about two colds per year, while children average from 6 to 10 colds per year. The frequency of children catching a cold is that they are in close proximity with each other at school and other social groupings. The children’s immune system is not as developed as thus of adults.

The following suggestions are some of the ways to avoid the cold or flu.

(These suggestions may seem like common sense approaches, but is not useful unless they are practiced)

  • Eating a well balanced meal regularly
  • Exercising regularly to maintain body strength in order to maintain good blood circulation
  • Protecting against getting chills (keeping the area around your neck and shoulders warm); this also calls for keeping the lower back and abdomen warm as well
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water whenever possible to avoid contact with germs left by other people
  • Wearing proper warm clothing when going from a warm environment to a cold one
  • Keeping away from persons who have cold or flu symptoms
  • Humidifying your living area such as your living room, bedroom and other areas where you spend most of the time.

From a nutritional perspective, warming foods such as stews and soups, are eaten more frequently in the colder months. Other food items are ginger (done in many forms) chi spices and cinnamon are also recommended for cold weather.

One of the most frequently asked questions is the difference between the cold and the flu. They are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. The symptoms are similar in most instances but the symptoms accompanying the flu are usually more severe. Any one of 200 viruses can give you cold. As most of you are aware, symptoms come in the form of a runny red nose, red eye, frequent dry cough, along with a sore throat, headaches and your whole body may ache.

The onset of a cold is usually gradual and may take up two days or so before the cold becomes full-blown. It is characterized as the mucus thickens as the cold progresses. A cold can last from a few days to two weeks depending on the severity of the symptoms and your body’s ability to fight against it. On the other hand, the flu virus is highly contagious and can affect a group of people all at once. Symptoms are similar to that of a cold but it is mostly accompanied with a fever ranging from 38 to 40 Centigrade. The flu symptoms can come on quickly. They are like that of a cold but much more severe. See your doctor or the health clinic if the symptoms become very severe, particularly if your temperature increases. The severity of these symptoms can last up to two weeks.

The best known way of lessening the chances of contracting the flu in most cases is the flu vaccine. It is said that the flu vaccine is about 7 percent effective. The flu shot can lessen the effect flu symptoms. You should consult with your doctor if there are any contraindications to your getting a flu shot. The flu vaccine is to build up your resistance so when you come in contact with the virus, your body is able to fight against them. After getting a flu shot, you may experience flu-like symptoms, such as a headache or a fever. However, the effect of the flu shot can vary from individual to individual as many do not experience any symptoms.

Generally speaking, those persons who most benefit from the flu vaccine are children, seniors and persons with low immune systems i.e.

low resistance to infections. The flu vaccine may also benefit persons who are in contact with the public most of the time through work or socially.

The onset of a flu can result in further complications if bacteria such as pneumonia can occur resulting in a bacterial infection in the lungs which can lead to the onset on pneumonia. Meningitis can occur if the bacterial infection affects the lining of the brain.

The pneumococcal vaccine is available to prevent these types of infections from occurring. A one-time-only shot of the pneumococcal is recommended particularly for the following persons:

  • 65 years or older
  • Adults who have a chronic heart or lung disease
  • A weakened immune system as a result of bone marrow or other types of organ transplants, or persons with other types cancer such as leukemia or multiple myeloma
  • Adults who do bot have a well-functioning spleen
  • Children five years of age or older who have the above conditions as described.

If you have received the pneumococcal vaccine before the age of 65 years, and did not have one for more than five years, you can ask for a booster shot from your doctor.

The pneumococcal vaccine has bee used in Canada since 1993 and is considered safe with an outstanding track record. After its administration, some people can experience soreness at the injection site, but they are mild and lasts only for a short time. It is generally recommended that you stay for about fifteen

minutes after you receive the shot so as to check with the doctor or health care professional if other side effects occur.

The above has only been a very general overview on tips for managing the cold and flu. In spite of the common tips stated above being common sense measures to avoid the cold and flu, it is a fact that almost everyone seems to come down with some sort of cold or flu-like symptoms during this season.

Written by Tom Teranishi

Published in The Bulletin November 2025 Issue

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