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Health Issues
A page devoted to seasonal or topical health issues for your information

Flu or Cold?

As we all know there seems to have been an unusually high number of flu cases this year. How can you know if you have "the real thing" or just a cold? In general, both types of illness cause sore throat, congestion and cough but with flu these symptoms are more intense and are accompanied by fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Colds usually resolve in 5-7 days while flu usually lasts 7-10 days and often can have some lingering dry cough and fatigue for a few weeks more.

What should I do for myself?

For colds you should drink plenty of fluids, eat healthily, avoid strenuous exercise and get some extra rest. Over the counter products are okay if you don't have any chronic medical conditions like diabetes or hypertension. For flu all of the above holds true but you also must stay warm and not go out until your fever has gone. And next year give strong consideration to the flu shot - it works!

When should I call the doctor?

Whether you have had the flu or a cold, you should call the doctor if:

Do I need antibiotics?

Both colds and flu are viral infections and are not helped by antibiotics. Use of these medications for viral illnesses has contributed to the development of drug resistant bacteria around the world, an alarming public health trend. Responsible physicians are making every effort to curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics. Antibiotics do have a role in treating secondary infections which are usually bacterial. There has been a lot of talk this year about the new antiviral medications that are being marketed for the flu. These drugs do help to shorten the course of the illness by a day or two when taken at the onset of illness. They are probably useful for patients who have such illnesses as HIV, asthma or heart disease. However, for most healthy adults they are probably not worth their high cost and risk of side effects. An annual flu shot is a much better investment and is covered by most insurance plans.

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