School has started and fall has arrived, which means the start of the cold and flu season- that time of the year when we see widespread respiratory illness. By this, I means illnesses which cause some combination of
Sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose, sore throat, fever, body aches and headache.
We call these by various names but they have much in common, including symptoms and treatment. Let’s talk about what you can do to cope when they hit your family.
Most otherwise healthy people recover from common respiratory illnesses. You may be miserable for several days, and need several weeks to feel back to normal, but you won’t suffer any permanent harm.
Fever ,especially in children, alarms parents. Don’t ignore it but don’t panic either. Reading this post should help you keep calm about fever .
Some people are at risk of developing severe symptoms and serious complications, so seek medical help sooner, rather than later. These include
Infants, especially under one month old
Elderly, now a relative term, advanced age, especially combined with chronic disease
Those with chronic lung disease, like asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis
People on drugs that suppress the immune system
Other chronic diseases – diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer
If you are not sure if you fit into one of these categories, ask your doctor.
Check here for tips on
This is when you shouldn’t share- germs that is. These illnesses spread person to person, so minimize contact.
Keep your kids home from school and stay home from work, at least the first few days, when you are the most contagious. When there is widespread illness in your community, avoid crowds and public gatherings.
Resting, getting extra sleep, drinking fluids and staying warm and dry make staying at home therapeutic.
Speaking of person to person contact, the best way to avoid getting or giving germs is to wash your hands often, but especially after being with others ,using a restroom, and before cooking or eating. Cleaning household surfaces helps too, as well as clothing and linens.
Use medication wisely.
Some of these illnesses have a specific medication that clear it faster- strep throat, influenza, pneumonia. The others will “run their course” and meds are used to help relieve symptoms.
Many people assume that any illness with fever, sore throat and cough will improve with an antibiotic. The fact is, most will not. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, and most of these are caused by viruses. To learn more read about
These illnesses cause the greatest overuse of antibiotics, contribute to the cost of health care, and the development of antibiotic resistance. Please do not insist on an antibiotic if the doctor says you don’t need it; if offered an antibiotic, ask why.
Does nasal drainage and congestion need treatment with an antibiotic? Maybe not. Learn how to sort out sinusitis.
WebMD offers this advice on choosing non-prescription cold remedies
The “24 hour virus” is for the most part a myth. Expect to be ill anywhere from 3 to 10 days; some symptoms, especially cough, can linger for weeks.
But if after 3-5 days you are getting progressively worse, instead of better, something more may be going on, so it’s wise to seek professional medical help.