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Cold & Flu
Cold & Flu Articles
You've gotten the basics down: you're washing your hands regularly and keeping your distance from friends and family. But you likely still have questions. Are you washing your hands often enough? How exactly will social distancing help? What's okay to do while social distancing? And how can you strategically stock your pantry and medicine cabinet in order to minimize trips to the grocery store and pharmacy?
The following actions help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other coronaviruses and influenza:
Most people who become ill with COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. No specific treatments for COVID-19 exist right now. But some of the same things you do to feel better if you have the flu — getting enough rest, staying well hydrated, and taking medications to relieve fever and aches and pains — also help with COVID-19.
In the meantime, scientists are working hard to develop effective treatments. Therapies that are under investigation include drugs that have been used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases; antiviral drugs that were developed for other viruses, and antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19.
As we continually learn more about coronavirus and COVID-19, it can help to reacquaint yourself with some basic information. For example, understanding how the virus spreads reinforces the importance of social distancing and other health-promoting behaviors. Knowing how long the virus survives on surfaces can guide how you clean your home and handle deliveries. And reviewing the common symptoms of COVID-19 can help you know if it's time to self-isolate.
Coronaviruses are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections.
If you are at increased risk for serious illness from COVID-19, you need to be especially careful to avoid infection. You may have questions about your particular condition or treatment, how it impacts your risk of infection and illness, and what you need to do if you become ill. Your doctor is best equipped to provide individual advice, but we provide some general guidelines, below.
The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases steadily with age, especially for those with underlying medical problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, serious heart conditions, obesity, or diabetes. According to a recent study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, certain underlying medical conditions may increase the risk of serious COVID-19 for individuals of any age.
As the new coronavirus spreads across the globe, the chances that you will be exposed and get sick continue to increase. If you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or begin to experience symptoms of the disease, you may be asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate. What does that entail, and what can you do to prepare yourself for an extended stay at home? How soon after you're infected will you start to be contagious? And what can you do to prevent others in your household from getting sick?
Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include fever, body ache, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell. In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.
Perhaps you're older, worried that you may become infected and seriously ill. Maybe you're doing your best to keep your family healthy while trying to balance work with caring for your children while schools are closed. Or you're feeling isolated, separated from friends and loved ones during this period of social distancing.
Regardless of your specific circumstances, it's likely that you're wondering how to cope with the stress, anxiety, and other feelings that are surfacing. A variety of stress management techniques, which we delve into below, can help.
This webinar series was created to support the students and staff of the Harvard Medical School community, yet the lessons will be broadly applicable to all who are feeling the emotional strain of this unprecedented crisis.
Children's lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic. Between schools being closed and playdates being cancelled, children's routines are anything but routine. Kids also have questions about coronavirus, and benefit from age-appropriate answers that don't fuel the flame of anxiety. It also helps to discuss — and role model — things they can control, like hand washing, social distancing, and other health-promoting behaviors.
Children, including very young children, can develop COVID-19. Many of them have no symptoms. Those that do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough. Some children have had severe complications, but this has been less common. Children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.
The rapid spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spark alarm worldwide. Countries around the world are grappling with surges in confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Calls for preventive measures such as social distancing and face coverings to slow the spread of coronavirus have created a new normal in many places. Health care workers and hospitals have ramped up capabilities to care for large numbers of people made seriously ill by COVID-19. Meanwhile, scientists are exploring potential treatments and clinical trials to test new therapies and vaccines are underway.
Below, you'll find answers to common questions all of us are asking. We will be adding new questions and updating answers as reliable information becomes available. Also see our podcasts featuring experts discussing coronavirus and COVID-19.
The flu vaccine may be less effective in older adults, because their immune systems may not respond to it as robustly as younger individuals. Even so, it still greatly reduces risks related to the virus.
Older adults are especially susceptible to winter illnesses. This is partly because of a weakened immune system. Common winter illnesses include the common cold, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, and stomach bugs. To ward off winter illness, one should get the proper vaccines, wash hands before eating or touching the face, carry hand sanitizer, avoid close contact with people who’re under the weather, and stay away from shared food like potlucks and buffets.