Cold & Flu

Cold & Flu Articles

If you've been exposed to the coronavirus

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. 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. 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. More »

Coronavirus Resource Center

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.  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?

Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock Vitamin C is often touted as a natural cold remedy. The nutrient is featured in supplements promising to boost the immune system. Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling famously claimed that taking large doses of vitamin C helps thwart a cold. Is there something to these claims? "The data show that vitamin C is only marginally beneficial when it comes to the common cold," says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Our bodies don't make vitamin C, but we need it for immune function, bone structure, iron absorption, and healthy skin. We get vitamin C from our diet, usually in citrus fruits, strawberries, green vegetables, and tomatoes. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 90 milligrams (mg) per day, and for women, it's 75 mg per day. (Locked) More »

What causes a cough after a cold?

A persistent cough that remains after an infection has been treated can last for a month or two. There are several treatments that may offer relief, such as antihistamines or a bronchodilator inhaler.  More »