Keeping Your Student Athlete Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Cold and Flu Prevention
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As certified athletic trainers with Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network, Sabrena Lary and Deanna Barrett take great pride in taking good care of their student athletes both on and off the field. And with flu season just around the corner, they have these tips to help students stay healthy:

A mention of “getting sick” usually refers to either the common cold or influenza (the flu). The symptoms are similar, but there are slight differences. The most notable: Cold symptoms have a gradual onset and flu symptoms are often abrupt. A fever is commonly present with influenza, but rarely with a cold. Chills and body aches are more often associated with influenza than with a cold.

The best way to prevent the flu is practicing good hygiene. When in close quarters with many other people, protect yourself against germs and illness. Also avoid spreading your own germs.

  • Cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow to avoid adding more germs to your hands.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes: Germs are often absorbed into the body through mucous membranes found in these areas.
  • Wash your hands frequently — preferably with soap and water — for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep frequently-touched common surfaces clean (railings, doorknobs, faucets, desk/table/counter surfaces).
  • Get vaccinated: It’s free at your local pharmacy.
  • Exercise (moderate): A brisk walk, light biking or an easy jog.
  • Stay hydrated: On average, an adult should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

There are no cures for the common cold.  There are, however, treatments for influenza. Antiviral medications are available by prescription from your healthcare provider and are most effective when administered within two days of onset of symptoms. In both cases, there are steps you can take to help relieve the symptoms:

  • Rest: Your body heals best at rest. If you have a fever, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. By staying home and resting, you are also helping prevent the spread of illness.
  • Increase fluid intake: Clear fluids, such as water and broth are best. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these tend to dehydrate. Fluids can help keep mucus thin.
  • Care for congestion: Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available. You may also wish to try saline nasal drops and sprays, or a Neti Pot. Add moisture to the air with humidifiers to ease congestion and irritated sinuses. Mentholated ointments and drops are often soothing by easing sore throats, opening airways and thinning mucus.
  • Take steps to reduce fever (if necessary): Some OTC medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), are not only pain relievers, but also fever reducers.

Keep in mind that many cold remedies contain multiple ingredients, such as decongestants combined with pain relievers. Be sure to read the labels to avoid taking too much of any medication.

Do you prefer natural home remedies? Here are a few options you can find in your home:

  • Thieves oil, a blend of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary, may have some potential benefits in boosting immune function and fighting infection.
  • Oregano, possibly taken as a capsule or steeped in hot water, may have antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties, as well as a possible expectorant to help with congestion.
  • Honey in hot water (you may wish to add tea and lemon) is often effective in suppressing cough.
  • Moderate exercise has been found to strengthen the immune system.

For more information about how athletes can stay healthy and in the game, visit mysportshealth.org


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