Cold & Flu

Cold & Flu Articles

COVID-19 basics

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. More »

If you are at higher risk

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. Older people, especially those with underlying medical problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure, or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. More »

Coping with coronavirus

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.  More »

Coronavirus outbreak and kids

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. However, children 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. More »

Coronavirus Resource Center

The rapid spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that will be necessary if the coronavirus spreads within communities. Below, you'll find answers to a number of questions about coronavirus and COVID-19. We will be adding new questions and updating answers as reliable information becomes available. More »

Preventing seasonal maladies

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. More »

Bracing for flu season: Steps to protect yourself right now

Flu shots are not guaranteed to keep someone from getting influenza. Sometimes the shot is not a good match for the viruses that cause epidemics. Still, older adults should get the trivalent or quadrivalent flu shot, especially people who have diabetes or heart, lung, or kidney disease, or who take medication that suppresses the immune system. Other anti-flu precautions include washing hands often (with soap and warm water or hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable), and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. (Locked) More »

Should you take an antiviral drug when you get the flu?

Antiviral medications may help reduce the symptoms of influenza. They must be taken within two days of the start of symptoms to be effective. In June 2017, the World Health Organization removed one antiviral, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), from its list of essential medications because of questionable effectiveness. However, Harvard experts say antivirals are the only medication option, have a good safety record, and at least some people respond to the drugs if they are prescribed promptly. (Locked) More »

Can vitamin C prevent a cold?

For the general population, taking daily vitamin C does not reduce the risk of getting a cold. Taking at least 200 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day appears to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children, meaning recovery about one day sooner. It’s best to get vitamin C from food. Eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day should provide the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women. More »