Flu season is nearly upon us, a yearly update.

During the upcoming months we are facing an increase in colds and the flu. What is the difference between the two and what can we do to prevent becoming ill. Both influenza and the common cold are contagious respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are more than 100 different viruses that can cause a cold, the rhinovirus is the most common cause and it is highly contagious. Most of these viruses thrive in environments with low humidity, which is why colds are more common during the fall and winter. However, you can catch a cold any time of the year.

The seasonal flu is caused by viruses that vary from year to year. The illness can be mild to severe and can lead to other serious problems. Those who are at greatest risk are the elderly and the very young, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.

Both colds and the flu are spread by contact with virus-filled droplets. You can get sick if you touch a surface that has recently been handled by an infected person, and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • WASH YOUR HANDS. Frequent hand-washing is an effective way to prevent many common infections. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used.
  • KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR FACE. Try your best not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes, as this is a common method of transmission of the viruses.
  • CONTAIN YOUR COUGHS AND SNEEZES. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow. Wash your hands after sneezing or blowing your nose. AVOID CROWDS. Flu spreads wherever people congregate such as schools, offices, and public transportation. Try to avoid crowds , and if your sick stay home so you do not infect others.

THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT THE FLU IS BY GETTING A FLU VACCINATION EACH YEAR. The vaccine contains protection from the 3-4 influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common. This year during the 2019-2020 season it is available as an injection and as a nasal spray. While not full proof, these simple steps will help prevent the spread of both the common cold and the flu.