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What Do I Have?


 With a lot of flu floating around this year, it is time to again review ‘What Do I Have?’  Each year approximately 36,000 die of influenza.  This year we are dealing with the seasonal flu along with the H1N1.  So what is the difference of a cold versus the flu?


             Frequently asked questions of individuals are:  Is it a cold or the flu?

  •  A cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It is usually 12 hours to 5 days, for a cold to incubate after being exposed.  A cold will most likely only last a week to 10 days and have symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose, and a general sense of not feeling well.   It is important that you cough or sneeze in your elbow and be sure to wash your hands often as antibacterial soap will not kill viruses.  It only kills germs.


  •  The flu is a respiratory virus and has more severe symptoms, including sudden onset of high fever, aches, pains, headache, runny nose, sore throat, weakness and fatigue.  The flu is a highly contagious.   Flu germs enter through the mouth or nose by being in close proximity to others who cough or sneeze spreading their germs into your environment.   We also pick up the virus by touching contaminated objects and then touching our hands to our face.  This is why it is so important to wash your hands.
  • What can I do if I get the flu?
  •  If you have fever and chills lasting more than a few days, chest pain that gets worse on inspiration, or you have uncontrolled vomiting and/or diarrhea, call your physician.   Stay away from others.  Don’t pass your germs around.  Stay home till you are free from fever without the aid of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours.
  • What can I do to prevent illness?
  •  Besides washing your hands often, get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water and exercise.  Exercise is important because it will help strengthen the immune system.  The water will help hydrate the body and flush the body of toxins.  An interesting article I read in the issue of Health, discussed how cold viruses gain entry by attaching to a molecule in the nasal lining called ICAM-1.  To reduce ICAM-1 levels so it is harder for the cold virus to attach, spray your nasal passages with saline.  Sounds simple enough.
  • What if I have an infection?
  •  If you have been diagnosed with an infection and given an antibiotic, take it as prescribed.  Just because you start to feel better, is not a reason “to save” the medication to use again if you get sick.  By not finishing the prescribed dosage, you are reducing your chances of getting completely over what is making you sick and you are building resistance against the bacteria.
  • The flu is viral and is best prevented by the flu shot.  It is important to get the seasonal flu shot along with the H1N1 shot so to be protected against both flu’s.


 Remember, your best defense, after a flu shot, is WASHING YOUR HANDS OFTEN!   If you feel you may only need a decongestant, antihistamine or pain reliever, these can be purchased over the counter (OTC).  But you should consult your physician or pharmacist first to ensure the OTC will not react with any prescriptions you may be taking.  Beware that the pain reliever, aspirin, has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, so do not give this to a child.  Remember the seasonal flu shot only protects for the strain of flu expected this year not H1N1.  H1N1 is a separate shot.  Be safe this flu season!

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