December 11, 2015

Cold or Flu and What to Do

This holiday season, deck the halls with boughs of holly…and don’t forget the tissues, hand sanitizers, pain relievers and chicken soup! Yes, along with bright lights and good cheer, the winter months can bring some nasty cases of colds and flu. WHIO data tell us that in the past year, the number of patients in Wisconsin treated for flu doubled over the previous year from 17,000 to 34,000; and these figures do not include flu victims who are on Medicare and the many who do not seek medical aid.

Here are some useful facts and tips to help cope with these unwelcome visitors:

First, know the difference between colds and flu. A cold will come on gradually. You may feel a sore throat for a day or two before congestion causes sneezing and coughing. A cold lasts for about a week; and its symptoms may be relieved by over-the-counter remedies, rest and lots of liquids.

The flu, on the other hand, will hit you like a ton of bricks. One minute you feel fine, and the next you feel achy all over. Flu will cause fever, chills and severe fatigue and is more serious than a cold. It can last two weeks or more. If you see your doctor within the first 48 hours of feeling these symptoms, she or he can prescribe an anti-viral medication that could lessen the severity of your illness.

Colds and flus are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics are only effective against illnesses caused by bacteria and should not be prescribed for a cold or flu.

Of course, the most desirable way to deal with colds and flu is to prevent them. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine may keep you from getting a flu altogether, or may lessen its severity if you do. There is no anti-cold vaccine at present.

Wash your hands frequently and use a hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available. Use sterile cleaning wipes or wash after using public or shared items like keyboards, phones, doorknobs, ATM’s, elevators buttons, railings, and shopping carts, etc. During cold and flu season, some people avoid shaking hands by bumping fists or elbows. It’s sensible for you, and a courtesy to others, to help prevent the spread of disease.

If you’re lucky enough to avoid catching a cold or flu this season, congratulations; and if you do get sick, WHIO hopes you feel better soon!