The common cold is generally something that progresses slowly over a period of a few days. A runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and a productive cough usually are high on the list of symptoms of the common cold. The biggest key is that with a common cold you experience little to no fever. If you are able to cough up secretions and clear your nasal passages with or without the help of an expectorant or decongestant, then you likely have the common cold.
The flu on the other hand generally progresses much more quickly. In a matter of hours, you may experience some of the same symptoms of a cold such as a runny nose, watery eyes, and coughing. However, the cough may not be productive. The biggest symptom which can alert you that you have the flu is the presence of a fever.
Some steps you can take to prevent an illness are extremely common sense precautions. Cough into a tissue or into your elbow. Use hand sanitizer, or wash your hands frequently after encountering anything that others may have handled in public. If others in your family are sick, stay away from them unless you are directly caring for them, and if at all possible, use a separate bathroom from the sick individual. Also, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine! In the past we looked at the process by which each year’s vaccine is prepared. This year, thankfully, the scientist at the CDC and WHO got the vaccine correct. It is reported that this year’s vaccine does contain immunity against this year’s particular strain: H3N2. It takes roughly 2-3 weeks for the vaccine to take effect, which will still be beneficial to you as the peak of flu season is still nearly a month away.
In conclusion, if you cannot determine what you are experiencing, please feel free to call your doctor for advice. They may be able to determine over the phone whether or not you need to come in to see them. If you do suspect that you are getting the flu, make sure to get in to see your doctor quickly, as Tamiflu, the medication for flu, is only effective if taken during the first 48 hours of the illness. Good luck to everyone as we wait out the conclusion of this year’s flu season, and I hope we all have an extremely healthy 2013.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or email@example.com.