The Flu? Or a Cold? How to tell

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Cold or Flu?

“Colds and flu are caused by different viruses, but they share a number of symptoms,” said Prashanti Rajagopalan, DO, with Baptist Health Urgent Care at Brannon Crossing in Nicholasville. “Generally speaking, flu is more severe and comes on quickly. If you’re an adult, having a temperature above 101 degrees is an indication that you have flu. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu.”

Some of the best preventive measures start with easy items such as practicing good hygiene.

A Cold

With a cold, you are usually sick for about a week – and contagious for the first three days that you have symptoms. When you’re contagious, you should stay home and get some rest. A cold usually begins with a sore throat, which usually goes away after the first couple of days. A sore throat is followed by sneezing, runny nose and congestion, with a cough coming on by the fourth or fifth day. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold, but not adults.

The Flu

Flu symptoms include a sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion and cough.  After two to five days, flu symptoms usually improve, but it’s not unusual for you to feel rundown for a week or more. A common complication is pneumonia, which may be signaled by shortness of breath. If you have shortness of breath – or a fever that comes back after being gone for a day or two – check with your doctor.

When to Call the Doctor

“You can treat your cold or flu symptoms with common sense measures such as drinking plenty of fluids, getting more rest, using saline nasal drops and gargling salt water,” said Dr. Rajagopalan. “But you may require medical treatment if your fever lasts more than three days, you have painful swallowing, a persistent cough that lingers for two or three weeks or persistent congestion and headaches. Those can be signs of other medical conditions, such as strep throat.”

Taking Tamiflu – available by prescription – within 48 hours of showing symptoms, can reduce those symptoms. It is not a substitute for a flu shot.

Prevention

Important prevention measures include:

  • Hand washing by rubbing your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song). An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also effective
  • Disinfect your kitchen and bathroom countertops and children’s toys
  • Use tissues once, discard and then wash your hands
  • Get a flu shot

You may catch the flu during the two weeks that it might take for your body to respond to the flu vaccine.

”While it isn’t perfect, getting the shot is an effective way of preventing the flu for yourself, your family and your co-workers” Dr. Rajagopalan added.

Baptist Health Express Care and Urgent Care locations have flu vaccine on hand. No appointment is needed. To check clinic hours and reserve your spot in line, go to BaptistHealthClinics.com.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all persons six months of age and older. Those strongly encouraged to get a flu shot are:

  • Children age six through 59 months along with their caregivers
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during flu season
  • Adults age 50 or older
  • Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater
  • Anyone over six-months-old with chronic health problems and their caregivers
  • Nursing home and long-term care facility residents
  • Healthcare workers. Baptist Health requires its employees to have a flu shot unless there are medical or religious reasons why the person cannot be vaccinated

 

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