Is it a cold or a fever?
By KELSEY FOLLMER
Every year we are faced with the dreaded flu season. While cold viruses are present year-round and peak shortly after school begins, influenza, or the flu, typically arrives later in November and peaks from late December through early March.
It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of the U.S. population will get the flu each year. Most people will recover in one to two weeks, but some people develop life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. The elderly, newborns and people with certain chronic illnesses are particularly susceptible to complications.
Is it a cold or the flu?
On any given day, you are exposing yourself to bacteria, viruses and fungi in the workplace, at school, through public transportation and even through contact with your family members.
Determining if you have caught a cold or the flu can be tricky, but there are some differences in symptoms that can help you get to the doctor in a timely manner.
– Fever with the flu can last for three or four days. Fever with a cold is rare in adults and older children.
– With the flu, headaches can appear suddenly and be severe. Headache is rare with a cold.
– Muscle aches can be severe with the flu, but are mild with a cold.
– Tiredness and weakness is often extreme with the flu and can last two or more weeks. Generally, with a cold, a person has only mild tiredness and weakness.
– Extreme exhaustion can occur with the flu and appear suddenly. It does not occur with a cold.
– Runny nose, sneezing and sore throat are often a cold symptom, and only sometimes a flu symptom.
– While cough with the flu can become severe, a cold has a mild hacking cough.
If any of your symptoms seem like the flu, get in touch with your doctor right away. A test can be given during the first few days after the symptoms begin to confirm illness.
Basic steps can be taken to prevent you and your loved ones from contracting the flu. These include:
– Get a flu shot.
– Make sure you get plenty of rest.
– Wash your hands.
– Keep your immune system strong.
Additional tips to keep the flu and cold away
– Watch what you touch in public places. Assume that doorknobs, phones, light switches, handles and railings might have been touched by someone who is sick. Carry and use liquid hand sanitizer if you can’t wash. Keep disinfectant wipes around to regularly wipe off phones, doorknobs, etc.
– Wash your hands before you touch your face or eat, and never share food or drinks. Our hands become the number one transferer of germs from contaminated public items we touch, especially when we eat or touch our nose or mouth.
– Hold your breath when someone sneezes or coughs near you, and step a few feet away. Sneeze droplets are not airborne for long and may be evaded with five feet of distancing.
– Don’t smoke. Smoking can lower your immune system and irritates the nasal and throat passages.
– Get plenty of fresh air. If you find yourself spending too much time in air-conditioned or stuffy rooms, periodically take a break outside.
– Avoid cold drafty places. The human body has an outer immune defense system that is closely associated with skin cells and interferon. Persistent cold drafts can weaken this defense and cause cold and flu-like symptoms.
– Get plenty of exercise. This increases your peripheral vascular circulation, increases lung capacity and reduces stress.
– Drink lots of water. Dehydration adds biotoxic buildup. Ginger and cinnamon teas are great herbal drinks to boost the peripheral vascular circulation, which can add a little extra to your autoimmune defense system.
– Take vitamin C daily.
Kelsey Follmer is director of admissions and marketing at Manor Care Jersey Shore.