The cold and flu season is here AND COVID virus infections are still popping up especially since we all just got together with family and friends over the holidays! Every year we see many people in our community come to the clinic or emergency room wondering if they have a cold or more serious case of the flu. Common seasonal colds are generally a nuisance because we don’t feel well, but are not life-threatening like an influenza infection can be. It is important to recognize some of the common differences between these types of viral infections and when to seek treatment.
First, lets look at the common cold. A common seasonal cold is usually gradual as it develops and is relatively brief with symptoms lasting about a week to ten days. Some of us might even get a couple colds throughout the winter season. Common cold symptoms may include minor headaches; slight aches, pains or fatigue; sneezing or runny nose; mild coughing; and/or sore throat. Generally most people will not have a fever. To help treat a cold, rely on your local pharmacy for some over-the-counter medication options for symptom control. It is also important to try and rest and get plenty of fluids to help speed along recovery.
Second, lets examine an influenza infection. Influenza usually has a more sudden onset when it starts and has more severe symptoms that can last for weeks. It is important to monitor these symptoms that may include: sudden onset of high fever lasting several days; prominent headaches; severe aches and pain; severe coughing; chills; extreme and lasting fatigue; and/or chest discomfort. If you are experiencing any of these more severe symptoms, schedule an appointment to be examined by a provider for aggressive treatment options- especially for the very young, old, or those with weakened immune systems!
Lastly and amazingly about 80% of all types of viral infections (cold or flu) are transmitted by touch and most are passed indirectly with daily objects we use- phones, handles, keyboards, etc. that someone else probably sneezed or coughed on! Help protect yourself by remembering some simple steps that will help prevent the spread of illness and keep your family healthier:
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap.
- Use hand sanitizers, if your hands are not obviously dirty.
- Clean your hands before touching your face or handling food.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Cover coughs/sneezes with the inside of your elbow or with a tissue.
- Don’t share utensils, drinks, toothbrushes, or lip balms.
- Regularly disinfect areas where germs collect- kitchen or bathroom surfaces, handles, phones.
- Boost your immune system with plenty of sleep, exercise, nutritious foods, and water.
- Get your annual flu shot.