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Cold and Flu

Top 10 Questions About the Flu

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because they have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

Influenza or "the flu" develops when a flu virus infects your respiratory system, including your nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and possibly the lungs. A cold virus usually infects only your upper respiratory tract: your nose and throat. Flu symptoms are generally worse than illness caused by the common cold. What we call "stomach flu" or "intestinal flu" is really another virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It's confusing terminology, because it really isn't the flu. It's just another type of viral infection.

Not Sure Which One You Have
Is It a Cold or Is It the Flu? Check Your Symptoms

SYMPTOMS                             COLD                                 FLU
Fever                                         Rare                         Characteristic, high
                                                                                               (102-104F); lasts 3-4 days
Headache                                  Rare                            Prominent
General Aches, Pains                 Slight                          Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness                 Quite mild                       Can last up to 2-3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion               Never                             Early and prominent
Stuffy Nose                            Common                        Sometimes
Sneezing                                Usual                             Sometimes
Sore Throat                            Common                       Sometimes
Chest Discomfort,                   Mild to moderate          Can become severe
Cough                                      hacking cough      
Complications                          Sinus congestion          Bronchitis, pneumonia
                                                or earache            can be life-threatening
Prevention                                None                          Annual vaccination;                                                                                                

What are flu symptoms and when is a person contagious?

The flu usually begins abruptly, with a fever between 102 to 106 degrees ( with adults on the lower end of the spectrum).  Other common symptoms include a flushed face, body aches, and lack of energy.  Some people have dizziness or vomiting. The fever usually lasts for a day or two, but can last 5 days.

Somewhere between day 2 and day 4 of the illness, the “whole body” symptoms begin to subside, and respiratory symptoms begin to increase. The virus can settle anywhere in the respiratory tract, producing symptoms of a cold, croup, sore throat, bronchiolitis, ear infection, or pneumonia.

The most prominent of the respiratory symptoms is usually a dry, hacking cough.  Most people also develop a sore (red) throat and a headache.  Nasal discharge and sneezing are common.  These symptoms (except the cough) usually disappear within 4-7 days.  Sometimes there’s a second wave of fever at this time.  Cough and tiredness usually last for weeks after the rest of the illness is over.

The most common way to catch the flu is by inhaling droplets from coughs or sneezes.  Less often, it is spread when you touch a surface such as a faucet handle or phone that has the virus on it, and then touch your own mouth, nose or eyes.

Symptoms appear 1-7 days later (usually within 2-3 days).

Flu shots:  should I get one and can it cause the flu?

The flu shot does not contain live viruses, so it cannot "give" you the flu. However, the vaccine can trigger an immune response from your body, so you may have a few mild symptoms, like achy muscles or a low fever.

The nasal flu vaccine, FluMist, is made with weakened live virus. It's recommended only for nonpregnant, healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49 because there is a lack of safety information in other groups.

Because flu viruses differ from year to year, you need an annual flu shot to try to prevent the flu. The vaccines don't guarantee that you are 100% protected. You could catch a strain that is not included in this year's shot. Recent research also indicates that the vaccine may not be as protective for children under age 2. But flu shots are considered the best prevention available today.

While the CDC recommends that everyone get a flu shot, it’s highly recommended for:

    * People at high risk of flu complications, such as pneumonia
    * All children 6 to 23 months old
    * People 65 and older
    * People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
    * Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic medical conditions
      Women who will be pregnant during the flu season

Where can I get a Flu Shot?

    --Your family Doctor or Clinic.
    -- Walgreens.com-for Dates and Locations
    --Reasors Pharmacy: Locations in the Tulsa area.

What else can I do to prevent the flu?

Both flu and cold viruses are transmitted the same way - through microscopic droplets from an infected person's respiratory system. That person sneezes or coughs, and droplets are sprayed onto any nearby surface - or person. If they cough or sneeze into their hands (without a tissue), their hands then carry droplets to surfaces they touch. You touch that surface and pick up the virus. If you rub your eyes or nose, you've just infected yourself.

To protect yourself and prevent spread of cold and flu viruses:

    * Wash your hands frequently. Use an alcohol-based gel if you don't have access to water.
    * Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into your hands. Wash your hands afterward.
    * When you cough, turn your head away from others.
    * If you have a sudden sneeze and no tissue, bend your arm and sneeze into it.
    * Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. This prevents germs from entering your body.
    * Wash any shared surfaces (like phones and keyboards) frequently. Viruses can live on surfaces               for several hours.
    *Stay away from crowds during cold and flu season.

A well-nourished immune system is better able to fight off infections. Fuel your body with natural vitamins found in foods such as dark green, red, and yellow vegetables or fruits. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which fights inflammation. Yogurt helps stimulate the immune system.

Also, regular exercise - aerobics and walking - boosts the immune system. People who exercise may still catch a virus, but they often have less severe symptoms. They may recover more quickly compared with less-healthy people.

What's the best treatment for flu?

There's no single "best" treatment for flu, but there are many ways you can ease symptoms.

Prescription flu drugs can cut short the flu if taken when your first symptoms appear. Over-the-counter cold and flu medicines can offer some relief from fever and aches. They don't "cure" the flu, but may help keep you more comfortable. Keep this in mind: Doctors no longer believe in suppressing low-grade fever - except in very young and very old people, or people with certain medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. Low-grade fever helps the body fight off infection by suppressing the growth of bacteria or viruses and by activating the immune system.

What can help? Decongestants can help you breathe by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in your nose. Saline nasal sprays can also open breathing passages. Cough preparations are not hugely effective. For minor coughs, water and fruit juices probably help the most.

Note: Young people and children should not take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.

It's very important to drink a lot of fluids to keep your body hydrated. This helps prevent another infection from setting in. Avoid drinks like coffee, tea, and colas with caffeine. They rob your system of fluids. As for eating, follow your appetite. If you're not really hungry, try eating simple foods like white rice or broth.

When should I see a doctor?

These symptoms are signs that flu may have developed into something serious like pneumonia. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

    * Difficulty breathing
    * Persistent fever
    * Vomiting or inability to keep fluids down
    * Painful swallowing
    * Persistent coughing
      Persistent congestion and headaches

See the below web site for more information.