Flu season is approaching, and while many people think otherwise, it’s not because cold weather is on the way. Laborers in Hawaii and other warm locales are just as likely to get sick this time of year as those living in Minnesota and Manitoba.

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

A cold usually comes on over a period of several days. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can often help relieve these discomforts. Colds can last for up to two weeks. Check with your health care provider if your symptoms last longer.

Common Cold Symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose (clear mucus may darken after two to three days)
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches

Unlike colds, the flu usually comes on suddenly, is more severe and can last from a few days to two weeks. A medical test is the only way to determine if you have the flu. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but it can lead to bronchitis, sinus and ear infections and also pneumonia, which can be fatal. Flu can also make chronic health problems like asthma, COPD, diabetes or heart disease worse. Check with your health care provider if you have any of these conditions or if your flu symptoms progress.

Flu Symptoms:

  • Fever (sometimes accompanied with chills)
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
LIUNA General
and LHSFNA Labor
Armand E. Sabitoni

“Like the common cold, which is also a major source of illness in the fall and winter months, flu is caused by viruses that can flourish throughout the year,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “However, with vacation season over, schools in session and, for Laborers in many parts of the U.S. and Canada, more construction work taking place indoors, these germs spread more easily because people are in closer contact with each other. Cold weather’s role in the prevalence of illness is that it encourages people to stay inside in close proximity. In Hawaii and other tropical areas, a similar situation occurs during rainy season.”

Germs that cause cold and flu are transmitted through the air and inhaled when someone who is already infected coughs, sneezes or just talks. Germs can also survive for days on a variety of surfaces including ATM machines, keyboards, phones, salt shakers and restaurant menus. People can get infected when they touch these objects and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

Frequent washing of the hands and getting the annual flu vaccine is the best defense for avoiding the stuffy noses, fevers, aches and pains that make so many people miserable this time of year. However, if you do get sick, and are able to, stay home. People who get the flu may be able to infect others for up to seven days after becoming ill. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Coughing and sneezing into your elbow will also help in not spreading the illness to others. Cleaning with common household staples like bleach, vinegar, soap and water will kill cold and flu viruses around your house.

Flu vaccines are offered in many doctors’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. Click here to find locations near you. You can also check with your health and welfare fund and local union regarding the availability of flu shots. Everyone six months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop full protection against the flu. Get vaccinated now to protect yourself and your loved ones.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]