Sneezing, coughing, running nose. Is it the cold or the flu?
The country and the city have seen an abnormal amount of flu cases this year, and the Triad has seen two deaths from the illness.
Dr. Monica S. Carter at Cornerstone Internal Medicine at Westchester said she has seen more cases this year than she has seen in previous years.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of influenza, mostly A and strep throat as well as the usual sinus infection,” she said. “There has been an explosion of the flu and upper respiratory infections in general and there are more cases than I’ve seen in the past.”
Dr. Carter said that she had not heard if the flu vaccine has been ineffective but she warns that the vaccine does not keep a person from getting the illness.
“The vaccine does not prevent from getting the flu, it just prevents them from getting a bad case of the flu,” she said. “If you’ve had the vaccine less than a month ago you are still at risk of getting the flu. If it has been more than a month, then if you get the flu, symptoms should be less than a person who didn’t get the vaccine.”
Cold or Flu?
According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms.
“Typically, with a cold you may have a sore or scratchy throat but you can still go on,” Carter said. “The flu incapacitates you and you feel lethargic, have a fever about 100.6 (degrees Fahrenheit), body aches and may be short of breath or have nausea or loose stools.”
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms associated with the flu such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense than with the cold. Stuffy and runny noses are more common in people with colds.
When do I stay home?
Whether cold, flu or another illness, stay home if you have a fever. Fever is a sign of infection and infections are contagious.
“If you have a temperature over 100.6, that is what we consider a fever and that is when you should stay home,” Carter said.
Carter advised that a person should stay home and away from people until he or she does not have a fever without using pain relievers for 24 hours and to drink plenty of fluids.
How to I prevent getting sick?
Aside from the flu vaccine (which Carter notes is very important), Carter said there is a very simple prevention method.
“The no. 1 way to prevent transmitting illnesses is hand washing,” she said. “After you use the bathroom, of course, visiting a doctor’s office, wash your hands.”
Carter said eating healthy and drinking fluids can increase prevention and reduce symptoms.
“It takes time to fully get over a cold or the flu,” Dr. Carter said. “Be patient and diligent in the treatment regimen from your doctor and take as many precautions as possible.”
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