Is It A Cold Or The Flu?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Lots of bugs are keeping kids home from school and grownups away from work — cold and influenza the most common “I’m too sick to go anywhere” germs.

How do you know which is which, and does it really matter?

For some people, it might. While you can’t do much for a cold except take it easy and guzzle cold medications to ease your congestion, you may want to treat influenza as quickly as possible after the bug strikes.

Why? Anti-viral drugs — from your doctor — may take some of the punch out of the illness, and get you back on your feet a little faster. Plus, taking something for flu may also cut the risk of complications, which range from ear infections to pneumonia to heart attacks.

The younger your kids are, and the older you (or your parents) may be, the quicker we are to start these medications. In fact, if you take an anti influenza drug like Tamiflu, you need to get it on board within 48 hours of symptoms to get the bulk of the benefits.

One easy way to pull of the blindfold of “what do I got?” is to look at the FACTS of having the flu:

F = Fever — much more common, and higher, in flu than a cold.  Think 102, 103, 104 here.

A = Aches. As in your body really gets mad at you. It even hurts to blink.

C = Chills. Teeth chattering  in some cases.

T = TIRED. As in too exhausted to pull up the blankets onto your shivering body. It’s a major symptom.

S = Sudden. As in, you’re fine one second, and the next, you feel like you got hit by a truck.

The flu is no fun. It can keep you bedridden for a week, then a few weeks to get your sea legs back. And that’s if you don’t get nailed by complications.

And just like one size doesn’t fit all, the flu can attack each person differently. Besides the advice that prescription flu medicine may help, is to know that shortness of breath, chest pain, dehydration (no urination for 6+ hours), listlessness, and severely sick all mean see your doc ASAP.

We’ve had a lot of hospitalizations, even deaths, this year from the flu here in Colorado. Don’t be a statistic. And don’t scare the daylights out of your family.

Here’s a good resource for parents: cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/a_flu_guide_for_parents.pdf

Oh, I almost forgot — it’s still not too late to get a flu shot.

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