The early fall chill has hit Southeast Idaho and with it, we are seeing a rise in colds and flu. It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination to help prevent the onset of a serious influenza illness this year. Since many people continue to lump colds and flu together, assuming it is the same type of illness, it is important for people to understand the similarities and differences. I spoke with our clinic providers to get some more information about colds versus influenza (flu).
First, colds and flu are both viral illnesses of the upper respiratory system, but the similarities end there. Colds can be caused by many types of viruses, but influenza is caused by a single family of influenza viruses. Influenza is generally a more severe illness with high fevers, and more severe headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches than a cold. Influenza can even require hospitalization and according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “…on average 36,000 people in the U.S. die each year from influenza and greater than 90% of these deaths occurred in persons 65 years of age and older.” Neither of these bad outcomes is common with a cold. Lastly, there are immunizations and specific medicines for influenza, such as the flu vaccine to protect against the influenza viruses, but no immunizations or specific treatments exist for the common cold.
Our providers recommend that the elderly, children, caregivers, and high risk individuals with chronic medical conditions such as COPD, heart disease, or diabetes should get an annual flu shot. The providers and staff also stress that if you are sick you should stay home to avoid getting everyone else sick. Everyone should also be more vigilant this time of year with following proper hand washing precautions! This includes teaching your children to be more careful with using a tissue when they sneeze and to wash their hands more often. If you have questions regarding colds and flu or need a flu vaccination, please call the Power County Family Clinic at 208-226-1057 or Aberdeen Family Clinic at 208-226-1058 for more information. We wish you and your family a safe and healthy holiday season to come.