Feeling bad? Don’t rule out flu just yet

Along with colds and the flu, ‘tis the season for the Ohio Valley crud. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

Just when you thought the flu season was over, the virus seems to be holding on. Last week, the number of cases diagnosed in Norton Immediate Care Centers nearly doubled.

And just to complicate things, colds are making the rounds and environmental allergens are right behind.

So how do you know if you have the flu, a cold or allergy symptoms? The answer depends on how bad you feel.

Let’s start with the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu started a bit later than normal this year, but activity is on the upswing and expected to continue for several weeks.

Flu symptoms can be intense, with a fever between 100 and 102 degrees, as well as headache, body aches and a bad cough, said Soraya Nasraty, M.D., medical director, Norton Immediate Care Centers. “If you think you have the flu, it is important to see your physician right away. If your flu is diagnosed within the first 72 hours of those symptoms, an antiviral medication like Tamiflu can be prescribed to shorten its duration and lessen severity.”

Best advice: Stay home and rest, and avoid spreading the virus to others.

“You are doing both yourself and those around you a huge favor by limiting your activities and confining yourself,” Dr. Nasraty said. “By staying home you are keeping the germs away from everyone else, limiting the potential spread of the virus.

A good rule of thumb: Be fever free for a full 24 hours before returning to work or school.

Colds and allergies can also be severe, and the difference between them is not as clear-cut. Their symptoms are very similar and can be nearly impossible to tell apart.

A cold tends to begin with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose followed by a cough, Dr. Nasraty said. Because colds are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help it go away. The best treatment for viral illnesses is to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. After a week or so, it usually has run its course and you’re generally feeling better.

Allergy symptoms stick around as long as you are exposed to the allergen, such as pollen or mold. Allergy symptoms can be minimized with over-the-counter antihistamines. Left untreated, though, they can lead to sinus or ear infections, which may require antibiotics.

“I empathize with people who are suffering from annoying symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, stuffiness, fever, aches and pains,” Dr. Nasraty said. “And we are here to help figure out the best way to treat your symptoms and get you back on the road to recovery quickly.”

If you’re not feeling your best and experiencing flu-like symptoms, visit a Norton Immediate Care Center nearest you, or call (502) 629-4444.

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