It’s That Time of Year.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. And while the symptoms of cold and flu are well known, making the distinction between the two can be difficult. “Colds and influenza (flu) are both respiratory conditions, but they are caused by different viruses,” says Internist Melanie Manary, MD, FACP, of Internal Medicine of Northern Michigan. “Diagnosis is often difficult because the symptoms can be similar.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the main difference between colds and flu is the severity of symptoms. Flu symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, extreme fatigue, dry cough, and body aches and pains. Symptoms of the common cold are milder and usually include a stuffy or runny nose. “With a cold, you’re probably okay if an over-the-counter medication controls congestion and secretions,” says Dr. Manary. “Unlike a cold, the flu comes on suddenly.” Serious flu symptoms might require a doctor’s care.
Click here or on the image below for a comparative chart on cold and flu symptoms.
The CDC indicates that both cold and flu viruses are spread through excretions when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or speaks. The droplets can range up to 6 feet. Secretions land on the mouth or nose or are taken into the lungs. Surfaces and objects can become contaminated as well. A cold sufferer is contagious during the first three days of symptoms, and sometimes before symptoms are obvious. The flu is contagious one day before the appearance of symptoms and through five to seven days after symptoms appear. “Sufferers should stay home from work or school for at least three or four days,” adds Dr. Manary. A good rule is to stay home until the sufferer is free of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Hand washing is a simple—and very effective—method for preventing the spread of contagious viruses. “Prevention is key,” Dr. Manary says. “I rarely get sick because I am constantly washing my hands between patient appointments at the office, after grocery shopping or running errands, and after using phones.” Dr. Manary also advises that individuals get a flu shot. At Internal Medicine of Northern Michigan, an average of 2,000 flu shots are administered annually to patients. “The shot significantly reduces the chances of contracting the virus,” Manary says.
Current patients can call 231.487.9702 to schedule their flu shots. New patient inquiries are welcome to call 231.487.2460 for more information or to arrange an appointment.