Ah-Choo! What to Do About Cold and Flu

Choose the health content that's right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox

Its Not Your Imagination. Winter Brings Illness. Why?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attributes this to spending more time inside with others when the weather is colder. So, this means your exposure to viruses is at an all time high. Many common illnesses share symptoms, making it difficult to decipher what you have. Below Scott Brady, MD, AdventHealth Centra Care, explains the differences, what to do if you do fall ill, and when to see a doctor.

Bronchitis is inflammation of large air passages in the lungs. Symptoms include a dry cough that develops into a cough with mucus, wheezing, fatigue, chest tightness and a mild fever often with chills. Acute bronchitis is contagious so washing your hands and keeping them away from your face is important for prevention.

Flu is a contagious respiratory disease affecting the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms fever, chills, body aches, cough, and a lack of energy last for a week or two. Severe cases may require hospitalization and can be fatal. Your best prevention is a flu shot. Symptoms can be shortened with an antiviral medicine, which must be taken within 12 to 48 hour from the first signs of symptoms. A physician can determine if you need the prescription and dispense medication onsite if appropriate.

Otitis Media occurs when the ear lining becomes swollen and fluid builds, causing ear pain and infection. Symptoms include: earache (a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain), fever, chills, nasal congestion, a feeling of fullness in the ear, nausea, muffled hearing and ear drainage. Because of complications associated with ear infections, its important to see a physician to determine the cause. If its bacterial in nature, antibiotics may be needed.

Pharyngitis (sore throat) inflammation of the pharynx is common and often a symptom of an upper respiratory infection (URI). Sore throats can be caused by viruses and the streptococcus bacteria (also known as strep throat). Since symptoms of both are similar, your doctor will swab your throat to determine if an antibiotic is necessary. If its not strep throat, you wont need an antibiotic, since antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

Sinusitis occurs when your nasal passages can’t drain due to inflammation. Many symptoms mimic the common cold. Oddly, sinusitis often starts as a cold, but the common cold typically runs its course in about a week. Sinusitis can last weeks or months if left untreated. Its important to note that viral sinusitis is present with all colds, but a doctors diagnosis of sinusitis typically refers to that caused by a bacterial infection.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), also known as the common cold, is any infection of the head and chest caused by a virus. It can affect you in your nose, throat, sinuses and ears. The infection is spread when viruses are passed to others by sneezing, coughing, or touching something infected by another person.

When to See a Doctor:

  • Temperature reaches 102F or higher
  • Shaking/chills
  • Difficulty breathing/wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Skin rash
  • Worsening sore throat
  • A cough that gets worse or becomes painful
  • Severe headache
  • Mental confusion
  • Blue or gray lips, skin or nails
  • Worsening earache

Recent Blogs

A mom chopping vegetables with her daughters in the kitchen.
Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies
A father and son look at a laptop together.
You’ve Got This: How to Support Your Child’s Mental Health During School Transitions
How Obesity Affects the Body
A Physician Checks Her Patient's Blood Pressure
Your 2024 Wellness Checklist
How to Help Your Child Process Disappointments in Youth Sports
View More Articles