With the temperatures starting to go down, the threat of the common cold and influenza is rising. It is hard to escape the common cold or flu and difficult telling the symptoms apart. Make sure you know the difference between the two and what you can do to prevent from getting them. Physicians advise that prevention is the key and an influenza vaccination is recommended.
Seasonal influenza - commonly known as the flu - may affect between five and as high as 20 percent of the U.S. population depending on the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu-related complications and about 36,000 people die each year from the flu. Those at higher risk include older people, young children, pregnant women and those with certain chronic health conditions.
The flu spreads from person to person by direct contact or through virus-infected droplets coughed or sneezed in the air. The best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The ideal time for that is usually before flu season begins - which typically peaks in January and will last through about March.
Flu Signs And Symptoms:
High fever - usually 100 degrees F to 103 degrees F in adults and often higher in children
Loss of appetite
Runny or stuffy nose
Common Cold Signs And Symptoms:
An initial tickle in the throat
A runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
Mild muscle aches
Loss of appetite
A change in nasal discharge from watery to thick yellow or green
What To Do
The common cold and flu are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. If you feel its necessary and your symptoms are severe or worsen, you should call your primary care doctor or go to the nearest emergency department. Flu symptoms usually are more severe than the typical sneezing, stuffiness and congestion that go along with a cold. They also tend to develop quickly - typically between one and four days after a person is exposed to the flu virus. People are contagious from 24 hours before they become ill until their symptoms resolve.
Common colds - far less serious than the flu - may be treated with over-the-counter decongestants, cough medicines or rest and fluids. If you choose to use medications, follow the instructions on the label carefully. The best way to prevent colds is to wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections.
"We want you to stay healthy this winter and take proper care of yourself," says Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "In most instances, these illnesses cause a few days of discomfort. But sometimes, it can be more serious."
Find out more at the American College Of Emergency Physicians
Learn more about the ACEPs Emergency Care For You
Visit the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
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