Thankfully, this year's flu vaccine is working well. We are entering the worst of the flu season (now through February), but the CDC has reported that 90 percent of the flu cases they've tested have been of the milder variety. This means that the flu shot is doing a much better job of protecting people against the virus than it did last year.
However, influenza isn't the only dangerous virus lurking around every unsanitized desk and doorknob. Emergency rooms and urgent cares are reporting increased numbers of respiratory viruses, and some of these (like RSV) can pose serious threats, especially to young children and the elderly.
Serious respiratory viruses may start out with simple cold-like symptoms, and these can present themselves for one to two weeks. The real danger sets in when the respiratory infection leads to compromised lungs or other complications.
If you find yourself coughing, sneezing and dealing with a variety of respiratory-related symptoms, here are the steps you need to take to ensure that things don't get any worse.
1. Drink more than your usual amount of water. One of your best hopes is to flush the disease out of your system quickly. Stay away from dehydrating caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, and keep a water bottle close by at all times.
2. Stay home from school or work. Not only do you want to avoid compromising the health of others, but you also need to rest as much as possible. This will prevent you from coughing too much and exhausting your body, which makes it difficult to heal quickly.
3. Take a decongestant. Head to the drugstore and purchase an over-the-counter medication that will help prevent your illness from turning into a sinus infection or something more serious. If you need help picking the medication best-suited for your situation, be sure to talk to a pharmacist before choosing.
4. Use a humidifier to moisten the air. When you can't stop coughing, dry air isn't your friend. Keep your bedroom moist to ease congestion while you sleep.
5. Sleep as much as you can. Even if you think you're just dealing with a small cold that you can push through, rest is vital. Take care of yourself so that you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to push your body past the point of healing without medical interference.
Instructions sourced from Mayo Clinic. To learn more about respiratory viruses and what you can do to prevent or treat them, visit this link.