Cold and flu season is here! The CDC expects this season will peak between December and March, and Americans catch about one billion colds every year, so now is the time to be prepared. Here are some basic tips and habits to keep you healthy and safe this time of year:

  • Wash your hands repeatedly throughout the day. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, which is about the length of two renditions of “Happy Birthday.”
  • Take care of yourself. Practicing other good health habits – getting plenty of sleep, exercising, drinking lots of fluids, and eating nutritious food can help build up your immune system.
  • If you get sick, stay home from work and away from people. Know which medicines will treat your symptoms and how to take them safely.

Did you know many multi-symptom cold and flu medicines contain a common drug ingredient called acetaminophen? In fact, acetaminophen is found in more than 600 different over-the-counter and prescription medicines. It’s safe and effective when used as directed, but there’s a limit to how much you can take in one day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a maximum daily dose of 4,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. Taking more than directed can lead to liver damage, so if you do get sick this season, here’s how you can make sure you’re using medicines with acetaminophen safely:

  • Always read and follow the label.
  • Know if your medicines contain acetaminophen.
  • Take only one medicine at a time that contains acetaminophen. Double check, don’t double up!
  • Ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.