With school firmly underway and the winter months approaching fast, most of us will come into contact with someone who is sick. I am sure that most of you wonder if you’ll get a cold, the flu or some unknown bacterial infection. Hopefully the following information will provide you with some insight and help you make a decision about whether you need to see your physician or not.
The common cold is typically caused by an Adenovirus infection and has the following symptoms: fever, sore throat, red eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion and occasionally cough. It is a disease that antibiotics provide no relief from and is best treated symptomatically with Sudafed and guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin). Antihistamines like Benadryl can dry up nasal discharge but provide no relief otherwise.
Another very common organism that we are seeing an increase in is Bordetella pertussis. This is the bacteria that cause whooping cough. This is a potentially life threatening illness in infants and the un-vaccinated. Otherwise, it is a self limiting disease that manifest as a constant often severe cough. It is easily treated with antibiotics; however the cough may remain present for several weeks.
Sore throats are almost a mainstay of any household with school-aged children. Most of these are the result of viruses; however they can be bacterial in nature and are treated with antibiotics. Typically, a streptococcal infection will differ from a viral infection in that the individual with a bacterial infection may have a rash, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever. Often there are white/green lesions on the back of the throat and tonsils.
Lastly the flu is a severe upper respiratory illness that makes the ill individual feel terrible, generally much worse than the previously mentioned conditions. Treatment with antiviral medication is indicated if you present to the doctor within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and speeds recovery by 1-4 days. So how do you know if you have the flu or a common cold?
*A cluster of these symptoms is more likely influenza.
I’ll briefly touch on the Swine Flu. Please understand that this is a variant of influenza. It is generally much easier on the ill individual than the run of the mill seasonal flu. I encourage everyone to educate themselves as to whether or not to vaccinate for this disease. Speak with your doctor. In the U.S. two-thirds of the individuals that have died as a result of this disease were children with pre-existing severe illness.
Your best protection from all of the above illnesses is to wash your hands, stay away from sick individuals and to supplement your diet with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily (for adults). If you find you or a child is sick, please stay at home to avoid spreading the infection.