Cold and Flu

Sick child this school year? Planning for the inevitable during a pandemic

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Kids get sick: it happens, and most of the time it’s not cause for concern or alarm. But this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic every symptom will be scrutinized. Parents need to be aware of what to do when their child shows signs of illness this year.

Cough and cold season is arriving: Choose medicines safely

Millions of Americans get coughs and colds during the winter, and many head to the drugstore to pick up one of the hundreds of common medicines available without a prescription. But those products often contain multiple active ingredients that are potentially unsafe if combined. Here’s how to safely choose the right over-the-counter medication for your symptoms.

Time for flu shots — getting one is more important than ever!

Wendy Stead, MD


Getting a flu shot is important every year, but this winter there is added urgency due to the COVID-19 pandemic: with both diseases circulating, hospitals may face shortages of beds and equipment –– and it’s possible to have both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Blown up in smoke: Young adults who vape at greater risk of COVID symptoms

While the majority of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in people 65 or older, younger people who smoke or vape are at much higher risk of becoming infected — twice as likely as those in the same age group who do not use any nicotine-containing substance.

How risky is using a public bathroom during the pandemic?

Steve Calechman


If you are wondering whether it’s safe to use a public restroom with the specter of COVID-19 hanging over us, your skepticism is justified. But maybe a restroom is just as safe (or unsafe) as any other indoor space at the moment. And there are things you can do to make your restroom visit less risky.

How risky is a hug right now?

Steve Calechman


Even as we are moving toward re-establishing some normal activities, and as much as we might want to, it still feels risky to hug another person. Is there a way to do this safely? Is it worth the risk?

A tale of two epidemics: When COVID-19 and opioid addiction collide

In our inner cities, the COVID-19 pandemic comes on top of another crisis that has plagued our country for years: the opioid epidemic. The combined effects of these two events are immense, and highlight already-existing problems with our society and our health care system.

Allergies? Common cold? Flu? Or COVID-19?

Anyone who experiences a symptom of illness will be concerned that it might be COVID-19, but at this time of year many people have allergy symptoms, and it’s still possible to catch a cold, although flu season is ending. Here are key symptoms of seasonal allergy, cold, flu, and COVID-19 to help you take action as needed.

Time to redefine normal body temperature?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Is 98.6˚ F still the norm for body temperature? Data collected over almost 160 years show that the normal body temperature has been declining and is now roughly one degree lower.

As coronavirus spreads, many questions and some answers

Todd Ellerin, MD


Readers have many questions about the new coronavirus (COVID-19). We have enlisted one of our experts on infectious disease to answer some of them.