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...

Preventing seasonal influenza

Article
11/13/2019
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaqueline Mbugua and members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Medical Group traveled to the Roxy Theater on Joint Base Cape Cod to provide flu shots to Airmen Nov. 2, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Swanson).

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

The art of moulage

Article
11/6/2019
Combat Medic Training program students at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston conduct an emergency cricothyrotomy on a “casualty” during simulation training. The “wounded” manikin also presents with facial burns that were created with moulage techniques. (DoD photo by Lisa Braun)

METC combat medic manikins rock realistic wounds

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

The Defense Health Agency participates in AUSA 2019 annual meeting

Article
10/18/2019
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, DHA Director, discusses upcoming Military Health System changes designed to improve the readiness of combat forces during a seminar held at the Association of the United States Army 2019 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.  Lt. Gen. Place explained how DHA is standardizing systems to improve healthcare across the enterprise.  (DHA Photo by Hannah Wagner)

Focus on quality care, innovation at home and on the battlefield

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health

The Military Training Network transitions to the Defense Health Agency

Article
10/11/2019
The Military Training Network or MTN transferred from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to the Defense Health Agency in September 2019. MTN oversees basic, advanced, and pediatric life-support training for more than 350,000 medical and non-medical personnel at 345 military facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)

Shift speeds training where it’s needed most

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Army distributes 1.5 million flu vaccines

Article
10/10/2019
Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alexander Wrigel (right), a medic assigned to Task Group 68.6, forward deployed to Camp Lemonnier, administers a flu shot to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Hector Ubinas. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joe Rullo)

Five to twenty percent of people in the U.S. are affected by the flu each season

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations | Medical Logistics

The Head, Hand, and Heart of Women’s Health

Article
10/4/2019
Maintaining peak health is critical for all military personnel. This month, we focus on women whose health concerns and symptoms may be different from those in men. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Health is universal for military personnel and civilians, but some health concerns affect women differently. Here are a few examples.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Women's Health

MSMR Vol. 26 No. 10 - October 2019

Report
10/1/2019

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Editorial: The Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs Vision Center of Excellence; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to ocular and vision-related conditions, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018; Incidence and temporal presentation of visual dysfunction following diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2006–2017; Incidence and prevalence of selected refractive errors, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001–2018; Incident and recurrent cases of central serous chorioretinopathy, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001–2018

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Women's Health Month: Take ownership of health, wellness issues

Article
10/1/2019
Navy Cmdr. Francesca Cimino, M.D. (standing) confers with a colleague in the Family Medicine department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

Regular cancer screenings are vital, but there's much more to longevity

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Video
9/30/2019
Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Measles can be life-threatening, especially for children and among people who have a compromised immune system.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Autumn ushers in season of falling under the weather with flu

Article
9/26/2019
A bronze bench and statue near the America Building at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, memorializes military dependent Trevor Lin. The 7-year-old's death in the fall of 2009 was attributed to influenza.  (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed-Bethesda)

Health care experts: Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccine

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

DoD, HHS implement Executive Order to modernize flu vaccines

Article
9/25/2019
Health care experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older – including the elderly, chronically ill people, and expectant mothers – receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. (DoD photo)

New task force aims to increase efficiency, effectiveness

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations

Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Video
9/23/2019
Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Hand washing alone will not prevent the spread of measles. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

International medics tackle Tactical Combat Casualty Care

Article
9/23/2019
Air Force students provide cover while pulling a ‘wounded’ training mannequin out of simulated line-of-fire during the Tactical Combat Casualty Care course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Battlefield simulation drills are vital to provide medics and combat personnel with realistic situations where they provide life-saving care and evacuation of wounded. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

TCCC has become the new standard of medical training proficiency for military personnel

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness

A surprise delivery at Fort Bragg’s maternity fair

Article
9/19/2019
Pamela Riis (in pink the pink top) learns more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor at the semiannual Fort Bragg Maternity Fair. More than 300 pregnant women, soon-to-be dads, parents of infants, and those planning to have a baby soon participated in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Beal)

For Linda Steadman, a certified nursing assistant, this will be a day to remember

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Video
9/17/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Vaccine components have been rigorously tested for safety. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 47

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.