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When Is Cold and Flu Season?

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Updated April 05, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: When Is Cold and Flu Season?
Every year we hear reports about "cold and flu season," accompanied by tips on how to stay healthy during this season. We have all heard the term, but do you know what it actually means? Do you know when cold and flu season really occurs?
Answer:

In reality, there is no official start or end date for cold and flu season, and the dates vary from year to year. We use this term as a general umbrella for when the flu and common cold are circulating at increased levels.

Cold and flu season generally starts sometime in late fall and ends in mid-spring. But colds are around all the time: you can get them any time of the year, but they're more common during "cold season".

This is also true of the flu, believe it or not. Although it's far less common to get the flu during the summer than it is during the winter, it is possible.

If you would prefer to avoid both colds and the flu during their "seasons" and also during the rest of the year, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Although these tips are not a guarantee that you will stay healthy all the time, they may help you avoid a few germs that you wouldn't escape otherwise.

Wash Your Hands

Know when to wash your hands, and how to do so properly. A quick rinse and air dry won't do much to get rid of the germs; instead, take the time to do it right, and you will dramatically cut down on your risk of getting sick.

Get Your Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine isn't perfect, and it won't protect everyone from the flu 100% of the time, but it's the best protection we have from the flu, and you're much less likely to get the flu if you've had the vaccine.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise and adequate sleep on a daily basis, will ensure that your body is functioning as well as it can, meaning it will be better able to fight off any germs that you do encounter.

Cover Your Cough

If you do happen to get sick, be sure to cough or sneeze into your arm to cut down on the spread of germs. Find out how coughing and sneezing spread illness, and how this simple technique can dramatically cut down on how many people get sick around you.

Sources:

The Flu Season Seasonal Influenza (Flu). 12 Oct 12. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 24 Mar 13.

Past Weekly Surveillance Reports Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 29 Mar 13. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 4 Apr 13.

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