Cold Versus Flu ? When to Visit Your Physician

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12We’re at the end of February and with that, the dry weather and low humidity continues. This type of weather can lead to community members suffering from either the common cold or flu. Both illnesses have certain similarities; however, Bayhealth Family Medicine Physician Joseph M. Parise, DO, says there are tell-tale signs as to which illness a patient may have.

Dr. Parise of the Bayhealth Medical Group states the common cold consists of 100 different possible viruses that give you the common cold. “Typically the common cold’s symptoms have less intense symptoms and less serious complications than the flu,” Dr. Parise said.

With the common cold, sufferers may have a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, mild headache, mild fatigue, and a mild to moderate fever of 100 to 101 degrees. Usually the cold will last three to seven days. To treat a cold, Dr. Parise recommends using mild pain relievers, decongestants and cough medicines. He also suggests drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest. Antibiotics won’t help.

When it comes to the flu, Dr. Parise said the symptoms are much more intense including aching and soreness, severe headaches, coughing, a runny nose, a high fever of 102 to 104 degrees, fatigue, and shaking chills. “You have no energy whatsoever and the fatigue can last up to two weeks after you start to improve.” Treatment is similar to the cold with the exception that aspirin isn’t recommended for children as it can lead to Reye’s syndrome, a condition that causes swelling in the liver and brain.

When should you go see a doctor for the flu or cold? Dr. Parise said if you have a child under six months of age with a fever of 101 degrees or an infant less than 12 weeks old with a fever of 100 degrees, take them to their primary care physician. If you have a chronic disease such as diabetes and have the flu or a cold and the cough gets worse, you should go see your doctor. If you have discolored mucus, this could be a sign of a bacterial infection and should see your family doctor.

To prevent either the cold or the flu, Dr. Parise reminds community members to sneeze and/or cough into their elbow or handkerchief, and to wash your hands regularly. “The most important thing you can do to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine,” Dr. Parise said. “The flu shot is recommended in late September, early October; however, you can get the influenza vaccine anytime during flu season.”

To find a physician, call the Bayhealth Physician Referral Service at 1-866-BAY-DOCS, 1-866-229-3627, for a complete listing of providers. For more information families can visit www.bayhealth.org.