Back to Top Skip to main content

Cold and influenza season is underway – and it’s nothing to ‘shake off’

Cold and flu season usually runs from October to March, and peaks between December and February. Young children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions have a higher risk for complications. Military Health System experts encourage everyone to take steps to prevent these viral illnesses from spreading. (U.S. Army photo by photo by Rachel Larue) Cold and flu season usually runs from October to March, and peaks between December and February. Young children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions have a higher risk for complications. Military Health System experts encourage everyone to take steps to prevent these viral illnesses from spreading. (U.S. Army photo by photo by Rachel Larue)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Immunizations | Children's Health

The holiday season is a wrap, but cold and influenza season is well underway. These viral illnesses can be picked up anywhere, anytime. Military Health System experts work hard to help prevent them – especially during the critical winter months.

“The flu is really nothing to shake off,” said Lia Anderson, a clinical nurse specialist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia. Flu season typically runs from October to March in North America, and peaks between December and February. In other words, now. “The infection can be severe and, if you are compromised in any way, it has the potential for being life threatening,” she said.

Cold and flu, while sometimes used interchangeably, are respiratory illnesses caused by two different viruses, said Anderson.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a cold can cause a stuffy or runny nose, cough, scratchy throat, and watery eyes. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms, but colds generally run their course without severe complications.

The flu can also cause a runny or stuffy nose and cough; however, flu symptoms tend to be more intense. According to the CDC, most people with the flu will recover within several days or less than two weeks, but some can develop complications. Young children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions have a higher risk for complications.

Lt. Cdr. Jaime Vega, the Navy Bureau of Medicine’s public health officer, said that waking up with sudden-onset fever, fatigue, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, and body aches can be an indication that you’re facing more than just a cold. It could be influenza. He recommends seeing a physician if these symptoms continue for more than 24 to 48 hours.

“If you have a fever that won’t go down with regular use of over-the-counter medication after about two days, I’d say that’s probably a pretty good indicator to be seen by a provider,” said Vega. If the flu is diagnosed early enough, certain medications can help shorten its course, he added.

Practicing good health habits, such as washing hands frequently and getting plenty of sleep, can help all ages stay strong and healthy throughout the season, said Vega. Eating a balanced diet, reducing stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and exercising daily builds strong immune systems. He stressed that the best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine.

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated for seasonal flu,” said Vega, noting that it takes a full two weeks for your body to develop its own immunity to influenza from the vaccine. The CDC recommends anyone six months and older get vaccinated.

Exceptions to vaccination include those with allergies to vaccine ingredients, patients undergoing chemotherapy, and children younger than six months. Anderson recommends staying home when sick, avoiding contact with someone who is ill, and disinfecting surfaces to decrease the spread of seasonal illnesses.

“We’re into our [peak] season, so we’re going to see a lot more flu activity coming up,” said Anderson. “You spread it to one person who spreads it to two people who spreads it to four people. Getting vaccinated is not about the individual, it’s about the community.” 

You also may be interested in...

Drive-Thru Flu Shots

Photo
12/21/2016
Medical staff at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia, immunized nearly 1,200 people recently with their drive-through flu vaccination event. (U.S. Army photo by John Corley)

Medical staff at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia, immunized nearly 1,200 people recently with their drive-through flu vaccination event. (U.S. Army photo by John Corley)

Recommended Content:

Immunizations

Flag Football Game

Photo
9/28/2016
Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Physical Activity

Battlefield Medicine Course

Photo
9/28/2016
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Triana, left, 347th Operations Support Squadron independent duty medical technician-paramedic, addresses injuries on a simulated patient during a tactical combat casualty care course, in Okeechobee, Florida. The course tests and reinforces participants’ lifesaving medical skills while they are in high-stress, combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Triana, left, 347th Operations Support Squadron independent duty medical technician-paramedic, addresses injuries on a simulated patient during a tactical combat casualty care course, in Okeechobee, Florida. The course tests and reinforces participants’ lifesaving medical skills while they are in high-stress, combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Orient Shield

Photo
9/26/2016
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force medics carry a casualty from an ambulance to a JGSDF helicopter while a U.S. Army medic calls directions during a bilateral medical training exercise.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force medics carry a casualty from an ambulance to a JGSDF helicopter while a U.S. Army medic calls directions during a bilateral medical training exercise.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

Photo
9/23/2016
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

MEDEVAC Helicopter

Photo
9/23/2016
It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command

Photo
9/23/2016
Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conduct medical evacuation training with Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conduct medical evacuation training with Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Ukrainian soldiers on field litter ambulances

Photo
9/20/2016
A Ukrainian Soldier uses hand signals during a ground guide exercise of field litter ambulance familiarization on the driving range at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. A team of medics and a mechanic from 557th Medical Company and 212th Combat Support Hospital are working together to conduct field littler ambulance and medical equipment  familiarization with the Ukrainian military. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeku)

A Ukrainian Soldier uses hand signals during a ground guide exercise of field litter ambulance familiarization on the driving range at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. A team of medics and a mechanic from 557th Medical Company and 212th Combat Support Hospital are working together to conduct field littler ambulance and medical equipment familiarization with the Ukrainian military. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeku)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Big Rescue Kanagawa 2016

Photo
9/20/2016
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Reginaldo Cagampan, left, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rocky Pambid, members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Emergency Response Team, treat a simulated patient during the 2016 Big Rescue Kanagawa Disaster Prevention Joint Drill in Yokosuka city, Japan. Multiple agencies took part in the drill including the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as personnel from the Japan Self-Defense Force and Japanese government agencies. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg Mitchell)

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Reginaldo Cagampan, left, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rocky Pambid, members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Emergency Response Team, treat a simulated patient during the 2016 Big Rescue Kanagawa Disaster Prevention Joint Drill in Yokosuka city, Japan. Multiple agencies took part in the drill including the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as personnel from the Japan Self-Defense Force and Japanese government agencies. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg Mitchell)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 10 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.