On Tuesday Mar 17, 2009, 03:00PM (EST) I'll be on a webchat answering questions about colds and flu:
Can you tell the difference between the common cold and the flu? How about bacterial infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia? According to the CDC, flu activity is just starting to pick up in the U.S. and could continue into April or May. As an Urgent Care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, I see dozens of these viral and bacterial illnesses every day and I'll be available to answer your questions live at March 17, 2009 3:00PM EST. Join me to learn about the flu vaccine, antivirals, antibiotics, and alternative preventative measures such as humidifiers, saline drops and sprays, herbal supplements, and honey and find out whether these treatments are suitable for children, the elderly and other high-risk groups.
This has been an unusual year in that the flu has been picking up in the last few weeks, and will last into early summer. The symptoms of influenza include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and fever. Other common symptoms are chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue (a tired feeling), and loss of appetite. Fortunately, this year, there's plenty of vaccine and you'll have protection as soon as a week after getting your shot. They flu shot covers the flu virus strain very well this year. The shot is a better choice, since it's been hard to find Relenza, the antiviral medication that this year's strain is sensitive to. Tamiflu has been so overused that this year's flu strain is resistant to it - meaning it won't help you if you took it. This is important because in a minority of cases, the flu can lead to death from complications of pneumonia.
The common cold has less severe symptoms than the flu. It's more likely to have the the symptoms of cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and fever without the chills, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue (a tired feeling), and loss of appetite. It gets better with time.
A bacterial infection such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or pneumonia is suspected when you have a persistent fever (>100.4 deg F), and copious pus in your bronchi, sinuses, or lungs, which can be heard by a doctor on examination. Other signs such as facial pain radiating to your teeth or rapid breathing with shortness of breath can help with diagnosis.
No matter if viral or bacterial, there are over the counter remedies that help: humidifiers, saline drops and sprays, nasal rinses, and herbal remedies.
I'll be happy to chat more about this with you!