According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu has affected 9.3-49 million people since 2010, resulting in 140,000-960,000 hospitalizations and 12,000-79,000 deaths annually.
Davelle Pursner, a registered nurse and clinic manager at the University of Georgia Health Center which provides vaccinations for students, said flu season begins in October and ends in March. While some cases begin in September, the majority of people get the flu in between those colder months, Pursner said.
From 2017 to 2018, there were 49 million cases of the flu — the highest it has ever been — and 960,000 hospitalizations — also the highest it has ever been. Colds, on the other hand, generally have less severe symptoms and they affect adults 2-3 times a year according to the CDC.
This makes it especially important to learn about some expert-backed tips on how to battle the flu and cold.
Have over-the-counter medications on hand
Since going to the store often feels like an impossible task when you’re sick, Pursner recommends purchasing a stock of over-the-counter medications at the beginning of the school year.
“Over the counter medications that can help you if you start to feel bad is a very simple thing that can help a minor illness from getting worse,” Pursner said.
Use cheap and simple solutions to combat the symptoms of the flu and cold
Simple tasks such as gargling salt water or using a nasal saline spray can help combat symptoms of the flu and cold, and you don’t even need a prescription to get them. Nasal saline spray costs only a couple dollars at the pharmacy, according to Pursner. If you have cold symptoms specifically, decongestants and allergy medicine can help in the beginning, since cold symptoms can often be confused with allergies or the start of the flu.
“For colds … sometimes people get a lot of head congestion and nasal congestion that can progress to a sinus infection,” Pursner said. “That's one of the things you can prevent by just utilizing over the counter medicine and nasal saline spray.”
Be aware of the patterns that can result in the flu
“The thing about the flu is that it can be kinda scary, people can get really sick with the flu … it always tends to occur when we're at our level of high-stress and so it's usually unwanted at a busy time in our life,” Pursner said.
Students may catch the flu around final exam season. Prior to exams, they may visit home, spend time with family members who have the flu, come back to school and become overwhelmed with stress related to finals — resulting in the flu for them as well.
Practice good hygiene, have a healthy sleep schedule and maintain a healthy diet
Since the cold and flu are such easily transmissible diseases, people should find ways to bolster their immune systems as much as they can. Good hand hygiene and plentiful rest as well as healthy eating are some important ways of preventing illness.
The easiest way to prevent getting the flu is by getting the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends getting a yearly flu vaccine before the end of October. Those considered to have a higher risk of experiencing serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions like asthma, heart and lung disease and people over the age of 65.