Fitness Facts: Cold or influenza?

October 09, 2018 / by / 0 Comment

By Jo Gott
Adult Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

Fall is here and the temperatures have dropped! That is the good news. The bad news is that with a change in the weather there is generally an increase in illness.

Two common illnesses that we see each fall are the flu and cold. How do you know if you have a cold or influenza?

Everyone has experienced a common cold. This is a viral illness that starts with nasal congestion and sneezing. It gradually gets worse and may include a sore throat, cough, a feeling or fatigue, and a slight increase in your temperature.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is also a viral illness. The public mistakenly thinks of influenza as the “stomach flu” with nausea and vomiting; however, influenza is a respiratory illness.

It begins abruptly much like a cold, but the severity of symptoms is much worse. In addition to sneezing and a sore throat, someone with influenza has a pounding headache, high fever and body/muscle aches.

Patients say to me: “I can’t move out of bed . . . I feel like I have been hit by a truck.” They have absolutely no appetite and cannot go to class or work.

Below is a comparison of symptoms taken from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:

Signs and Symptoms Cold Influenza
Onset Gradual Abrupt
Sneezing/stuffy nose/sore throat Common Sometimes
Fever Rare Usual
Headache Slight Usual
Body Aches Slight Usual
Fatigue Sometimes Usual

Treatment for both viruses is similar. You can use a decongestant to improve nasal congestion, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, wash hands to avoid spreading the illness and rest to promote healing.

If you test positive for influenza during the first 48 hours of the illness, an antiviral drug can be prescribed. Normally, influenza can last between 5-7 days. The antiviral drug can shorten the length of the illness an average of 36 hours.

If you have influenza, it is highly contagious. You should NOT attend classes or work until you are fever free for greater than 24 hours. For fever, use either Ibuprofen or Tylenol as directed on the package insert.

The best way to protect yourself against influenza is to get the vaccine. Most insurances will pay for this vaccine.

In summary, the best way to avoid contacting viral illnesses is to practice frequent hand washing. At the clinic, we wish you a happy fall . . . free of illness!


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