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""With cold and flu season underway, it’s important to take precautions so you and your loved ones can stay healthy. The Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide information on protecting yourself from colds and the flu, learning symptoms, and taking care of yourself and your family.

Get a Flu Shot

The CDC recommends getting a flu shot every flu season, which usually lasts from October to May but peaks from December to February. The flu vaccine can prevent you from getting the flu, make the illness less severe if you catch it, and stop you from spreading the flu to others.

The flu vaccine is available as a flu shot or an intranasal flu vaccine that is sprayed in the nose. Check with your doctor to see which type is the best choice for you. You can call your health care provider or local board of health or use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate nearby places offering vaccinations.

Prevent the Spread of Colds and the Flu

By following good hygiene and advice from DPH, you can prevent the spread of the flu or a cold. Keep yourself and those around you from getting sick by:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, and teaching your children to do the same
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your inner elbow
  • Avoiding physical contact with those who are sick
  • Using household cleaners to clean items that are touched frequently, such as door knobs and phones
  • Staying home from work or school if you get the flu

Know the Signs of Colds and the Flu

If you’re able to recognize the symptoms of colds and the flu quickly, you can treat your symptoms and get the medication you need to feel better faster.


Some common signs of a cold are:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Wet cough


Some common signs of the flu are:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches, joint aches, and headaches
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Because they have common symptoms, it may be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. Generally, the flu has more intense symptoms than a cold and often includes a fever and body aches.

Learn How to Take Care of Yourself and Loved Ones

If you or your loved ones get a cold or the flu, make sure you know how to properly care for those who are sick:

  • Learn Signs and Home Treatments — Symptoms like fever, dehydration, or body aches can often be treated at home.
  • Know When to Get Medical Help — There are many warning signs for when you should call a doctor, but common indications that you need medical help can include a fever that lasts more than three days or severe vomiting.
  • Build a Flu Care Kit — A flu care kit includes supplies like a digital thermometer, drinks, and non-aspirin medications to make treating loved ones easier.

For more information, including tips on flu care at home, download DPH’s “Flu: What You Can Do” handbook, which is available in a number of languages.

Help prevent the spread of colds and the flu — share these tips with friends and family! Tweet @MassGov or comment below with any questions about colds or the flu.

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