What to remember this cold and flu season

Guest Health Column
Barbara Cree, PA-C
MercyCare Monticello

     As the “season of sickness” approaches, are you armed with the knowledge you need to handle whatever germs come your way? Do you know the differences between a common cold, the flu, and the “stomach flu?” MercyCare is here to help.

     The flu and a cold can seem very similar in some ways. Both are contagious, viral infections of the respiratory tract, but the flu (influenza) is much worse. It’s more likely to come on suddenly and bring a fever, aches and/or weakness along with the typical cold symptoms like congestion, sore throat and coughing. The “stomach flu,” on the other hand, is a common term for gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. This virus may cause cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

     Influenza is usually at its worst for three or four days. Full recovery may take a week or more, and fatigue may stick around a little longer. It is important that you stay home if you have a flu diagnosis or symptoms. Stay hydrated, rest up, and try to keep from sharing the flu with others. Once your fever is gone for 24 hours, you are no longer contagious.

     If you do experience flu-like symptoms, call MercyCare Monticello for a same-day appointment at 319-465-5937.

     If you experience difficulty breathing, a persistent fever, vomiting, painful swallowing, or persistent cough, congestion or headache, see your doctor to make sure your flu is not developing into something serious like pneumonia.

     Remember: Only bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Cold and flu are viral, not bacterial. This means a flu shot may be your best bet to battle the bug.

     It takes about two weeks for the antibodies in the flu vaccine to develop, so the sooner you can get the shot, the better. You may be a little sore the next day, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid the flu taking you down. Contact MercyCare Monticello to get your flu vaccine today.

     To avoid these illnesses, remember to wash your hands frequently, cover your cough or sneeze, and avoid touching high-traffic surfaces, such as door handles, as much as possible.



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