How to Manage a Cold and the Flu During The Holiday Season


How to Manage a Cold and the Flu During The Holiday Season

Common Cold.Sore Throat.The Flu
Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C
By Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C
Nov 08, 2019
A mom helping her son blow his nose due to a bad cold during the holidays

The jingle bells ring and your nose… drips. There is a special type of agony assigned to the illnesses that sneak up on you during the holiday season. Whether it is a common cold or the flu, you can take these steps to avoid getting completely derailed when you fall ill during the holiday season. Read more to learn how to manage cold and flu symptoms during the holidays, as well as how to make travel more comfortable with a cold or the flu.

Stock Up Ahead of Time:

Maybe it’s Murphy’s law, but it seems nearly inevitable that at least someone in your immediate vicinity will be sick over the holiday season. Both common colds and the flu are wildly contagious, so once one domino falls, your whole crew is particularly vulnerable. Instead of cursing yourself for not preparing in advance when your little one spikes a fever in the middle of the night, make sure to build a supply of over-the-counter medications before you actually need them.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • For fever and pain: acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • For chapped lips and an irritated nose: petrolatum jelly
  • For that nighttime cough that won’t quit: menthol rubs, cough drops, and expectorant medications like guaifenesin
  • For the sinus throbs: a nasal irrigation system or saline nasal spray

Stay Hydrated – Inside and Out:

An ailing immune system burns through fluids fast, particularly if you have a fever, so make sure that you begin increasing your fluid intake at the first sign of illness. It is important to vary the fluids and include some that have a few electrolytes and calories, like a vegetable broth or fruit juice.

It’s easy to focus on internal hydration and neglect the equally important hydration of your external environment. As temperatures drop during the holiday season, there is generally less moisture in the air. This humidity decrease, combined with the sniffles and coughs that accompany a respiratory illness, can dry out your airway fast—which in turn, leads to more coughing. You can combat this by investing in a cool-mist vaporizer, which will be safe for the whole family to use.

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Home Remedies:

Don’t discount your mother’s advice when it comes to home treatments for common colds and the flu. There is nothing simpler than a good old-fashioned saltwater gargle, and studies show that it can be an effective remedy for a sore throat.

For children, a single dose of honey before bedtime has been shown to reduce cough and avoid the negative side effects associated with giving over-the-counter cough medications to children. Just be mindful that children under the age of twelve months are too young for honey therapy.

Supplementation with zinc, echinacea and vitamin C may also be beneficial for reducing the duration of symptoms of the common cold, but make sure to consult your health care provider before initiating these therapies.

Make Travel Less Treacherous:

The trifecta of torture is complete when you are (1) sick, (2) in the midst of the holidays, and (3) boarding a plane. To mitigate the stress of holiday travel while you are ill, do yourself a favor and pack an emergency kit in your carry-on luggage even when you are feeling well.

At a minimum, this kit should include:

  • An anti-fever medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Cough drops
  • A decongestant medication such as pseudoephedrine to help with the barometric pressure changes during take-off and landing (only use if this is sanctioned by your health care provider)
  • A pack of tissues
  • A water bottle

Make sure to also lather up with hand soap and apply hand sanitizer liberally and often—diligent hygiene is crucial for preventing the contraction and spread of colds and the flu in crowded travel centers.

Visit Your Health care Provider:

If your preparation and home therapies are failing you, it may be time to visit your health care provider. Plan to do this early on if you have medical issues that make you especially at risk, such as pregnancy, asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, or cancer.

If your health care provider diagnoses you with the flu (influenza), you may be a candidate for an anti-influenza medication such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza). Don’t let the cost of these medications add to your ailment; you can use RxSaver to find discounted coupons for these prescription medications.

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C, is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.