Helpful Tools to Prep for Cold and Flu Season

As cooler temperatures roll around, sniffles will abound. According to the Centers for Disease Control, while the flu virus is contagious year-round, it’s the start of fall and through winter that the flu is most widespread, reaching peak virality typically between the months of December and February.

Prepping for cold and flu season doesn’t just come down to stocking up on tissues and anti-bacterial soap. In the digital age, there are a variety of tools which can help you stay on top of influenza outbreaks, monitor symptoms, and get the help you need before you (or your family) get too sick.

Digital Apps

Downloadable applications and online tech tools can take flu knowledge and information with you on the go.

  • FluView: The CDC’s interactive website and smartphone app lets you track flu outbreaks near you as well as see their severity and likelihood for spreading. You can also search for places to get flu vaccines in your area as well as determine and monitor the strain of virus(es) out there.
  • SickWeather: This app for iOS and Android forecasts and maps illness outbreaks near you by scanning social networks for instances of people posting about being sick, getting sick, or knowing someone who is sick.
  • PollenApps: So often a fall allergy attack can turn into a sinus infection that doubles as a cold and puts you down for the count. Track allergy alerts for your region and sign up for daily forecasts and email alerts regarding allergies at

Home Monitoring Tools

Tracking cold and flu symptoms at home is critical, especially for families with children and/or elderly members. Keep these tools close at hand:

  • Pulse Oximeter: Too frequently can a cold turn into life-threatening pneumonia for seniors, especially during the winter. A pulse oximeter is a small digital device the slips over one finger and measures the oxygen saturation of your blood as well as pulse rate – this gives a quick window into whether a potential respiratory infection is affecting you or your loved one’s oxygen uptake. Check out the best pulse oximeters on this page.
  • Thermometer: Did you know that even a bad allergy attack will never be accompanied by a fever? Or that while a cold might cause a low-grade fever, body temperatures over 101 combined with select symptoms are typically the marker of an infection like influenza? Monitoring body temperatures during cold and flu season with a thermometer can help you track symptoms to start treatment early.
  • Blood Pressure Monitor: While you’re at it, add a digital blood pressure monitor to your home health kit to stay on top of blood pressures, especially if you or a family member experience hypertension. Sometimes an infection will negatively impact a person’s blood pressure by affecting things like hydration (which can severely decrease or increase blood pressure). Knowing baseline readings for your systolic over diastolic pressures will help alert you when levels start trending up or down and are accompanied by cold or flu symptoms.

Quick Medical Help

So it’s a Friday and all of a sudden little Jenna starts complaining of a sore throat and mild fever? The next available appointment your doctor has is in two weeks, what do you do? Turn to helpful online services and telemed tools like:

  • ZocDoc: This website and smartphone app (Android, iOS) makes it easy to find a well-rated doctor near you with its simple zipcode search. Input your insurance information to find out if the doctor you want is in network, read patient reviews, and even book appointments online with a couple taps.
  • Doctor on Demand: Bring the doctor to you with the latest telemedicine solution to long waits and last-minute appointments. Using a phone, tablet, or computer, you can connect face to face via live video chat with a board-certified doctor anytime of the day. They’ll discuss history and symptoms with you, perform a virtual exam, and can even order labs or prescriptions as needed.
  • HealthTap: Schedule an appointment for a live video chat with one of over 100,000 doctors available via the HealthTap website or app (Android, iOS). Discuss your symptoms and history for a potential diagnosis, or simply ask questions and voice concerns you may have about a family member. Want to see your own family doctor? You can ask them to join HealthTap too!

With a smart (and sometimes technological) approach to cold and flu season, you might be able to save you and your family from illness this fall and winter.


Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at

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