Seriously, what are the differences between a COLD and THE FLU? Possibly more important, WHY DO I CARE? The reason to care is the existence of TAMIFLU, a medication one can start in the first 48 hours of the flu to reduce symptoms and shorten the course of the illness. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of tamiflu, studies show that overall it only shortens the flu by one day. Either way, Influenza is no joke. It is a severe illness which reaches epidemic proportions EVERY SINGLE YEAR, and results in hospitalization and DEATH. A cold, while annoying, is much less likely to kill.
The COMMON Cold
Symptoms: They aren’t called “head” colds for nothing! Primarily symptoms are noted above the neck. Runny nose, sore throat, severe congestion, cough, mild headache, swollen glands, mild fatigue, and some aches.
Severity: Expect to feel icky, symptoms start slowly and increase over 3-5 days. Usually day 3, 4, or 5 will be the absolute WORST, but symptoms will start to improve after that. Cold symptoms can linger up to 3 weeks, though most people feel significantly better in the first 10 days. Expect to be able to get out of bed and move around. You may not feel well, or excited to schlep kids to school, but it’s within the realm of possibility.
CURE your COLD: Hydration, hydration, hydration! Keep a water bottle glued to your side, and rest as best you can. Use over-the-counter tylenol or ibuprofen to perk you up, and other cold remedies like tea with honey to comfort your cold. Humidification can really help in this dry climate as well. Remember colds are VIRAL and antibiotics WILL NOT help, in fact most bronchitis is viral as well. You can return to work once you’re feeling better.
Symptoms: Think everywhere. You’ll have symptoms everywhere. Runny nose, severe congestion, harsh cough, mucous, high fever, chills, sore throat, congestion, full-body aches (which feel a lot like PAIN), headaches, shortness of breath and FATIGUE (weakness, dizziness). Uncommon symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. If you feel like you were hit by a truck, get swabbed for influenza within 48 hours of start of symptoms.
Severity: KNOCK OUT. The onset is usually sudden and severe. You might initially feel a little feverish, or off but within a few hours everything hurts and you can barely stay awake. The flu comes on like a train, but tends to follow a 3-7 day course of of horrible. Plan to hunker down and sleep for the first few days. Call in the troops, and get some quality rest.
FIGHT your FLU: GET A FLU SHOT! Flu shots are proven to reduce risk of flu significantly, and EVEN if you get a strain not covered by the shot your illness will be shorter and milder than someone who didn’t get the flu shot! The other key is to get swabbed within the first 48 hours of symptom onset as Tamiflu is available to decrease the severity and length of illness. Another benefit of Tamiflu is that it reduces the risk that you’ll infect your nearest and dearest. TAMIFLU IS AVAILABLE FOR KIDS. Once you are fever-free for 24 hours you can return to work and school, but you will probably still be moving at a glacial pace.
WHEN TO SEEK HEALTHCARE:
- Difficulty breathing, or wheezing. If you can’t catch your breath be seen! if not in urgent care, check into the ER.
- Fever greater than 100.4 that doesn’t respond to tylenol/ibuprofen or lasts longer than a week.
- Severe vomiting/diarrhea. If you aren’t able to stay hydrated come in sooner than later.
- Symptoms that persist beyond 10 days or are not improving.
- Coughing that lasts longer than 10 days, is driving you bananas or is making it impossible to sleep.
If you aren’t sure whether you need to be seen call and ask :).
Interested in STAYING HEALTHY?
- HYDRATE. Drinking tons of water keeps your immune system happy! Eating whole healthy foods is essential as well!
- GET A MOVE ON. Regular exercise keeps you in peak health and helps your body fight bugs.
- SLEEP! Getting in a full 8 hours helps everything in your body function better. Less sleep can make you up to four times more likely to get the latest germs making the rounds.
- PROBIOTICS. Happy gut, happy human. Keeping the healthy bacteria flourishing assists your immune system. Unsweetened yogurt or a supplement is the way to go.
- WASH YOUR HANDS! Just do it!
What are your favorite comfort things when you’re feeling under the weather?