Cold and Flu Clinic
Is it a cold or the flu?
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the flu and the common cold because they often have similar symptoms. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus that typically strikes from late November through early March. The flu is spread through virus particles that are coughed or sneezed into the air. The flu usually starts abruptly with a high fever and a dry cough and is associated with severe body aches. The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.
The common cold is caused by over 200 known viruses. A cold can strike any time during the year but is most common during the fall and winter months. A cold is often characterized by nasal symptoms preceded by a sore throat. Like influenza, the cold virus can be spread through the air but you can also catch a cold by rubbing your eyes or nose after coming in contact with someone who has a cold or by touching something that person has just held. To avoid the cold virus, wash your hands often. Cover your cough or sneeze
- High fever (lasting 3 to 4 days) and chills, shaking
- Body aches, muscle pain, headache
- Fatigue and weakness (can last up to 2 to 3 weeks), loss of appetite
- Dry cough, runny nose, dry or sore throat
- Mild fever (rare), slight aches and pains
- Sneezing, nasal congestion/stuffiness, nasal discharge, fullness in the ears
- Mild fatigue
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Dry or productive cough with clear phlegm
Help Yourself Get Better
Do not treat your cold with an antibiotic
Antibiotics combat bacterial (not viral ) infections. You will only need an antibiotic if your cold has led to a secondary infection such as persistent bronchitis, pneumonia or sinusitus.
Do drink large quantities of liquids
Liquids, particularly hot liquids (herbal tea with honey and
lemons), soothe the throat and loosen secretions. Caffeine and
alcoholic beverages however, can dehydrate you.
Do gargle with salt water to help reduce swelling in your throat
Use 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a 4 oz glass of water and gargle every four hours. Over the counter throat lozenges will help to soothe a dry, scratchy throat.
Do get plenty of rest
Your body needs the time to allow you to recover. Let your body be your guide in determining how much to restrict your activities.
Do take Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Analgesics will ease aches and pains and reduce a fever.
Do use disposable tissues
Research shows that cold virus can survive for hours on handkerchiefs. Dispose of tissue carefully to avoid contamination.
Do inhale moist air to soothe inflamed membranes
To do this, take frequent warm showers or use a cool-mist room humidifier.
Don’t smoke and don’t be around tobacco smoke
If that is possible; at least cut back. Smoking will further irritate your nasal passages and increase your risk of bronchitis or pneumonia.
Choose the right medication for your symptoms
|If you want to do this:||Choose a medication with this:|
|Unclog a stuffy nose||Nasal decongestant|
|Quiet a cough||Cough suppressant|
|Loosen mucus so you can cough it up||Expectorant|
|Stop runny nose and sneezing||Antihistamine|
|Ease fever, headaches, minor aches and pains||Pain reliever (analgesic)|
When should you contact your medical provider?
You may need to see your medical provider if your flu symptoms are severe and after a few days you do not start to feel better. If your cold does not clear up in 7 to 10 days, or you have any of the following symptoms, see your
medical provider without delay.
- Persistent discolored or bloody mucus from nasal passages
- Pain or tenderness around the eyes
- Painful swelling of the neck glands
- Persistent cough with the production of discolored mucus
- Painful breathing, wheezing or shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Fever of greater than 100.5 for longer than 2 days
- White patches on the back of throat or tonsils or an extremely sore throat
- Chronic or unusual fatigue