Answers to Common Cold and Flu Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about cold and flu.

What is the difference between the flu and a common cold?

Janet Smith, CNP discusses cold and flu concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though the flu and a cold are both respiratory sicknesses and often share the same symptoms, they are caused by different viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Typically, symptoms of the flu are worse and come on more quickly than a cold, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of a cold include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Possible upset stomach and vomiting

The flu, if not taken care of, can lead to more serious health issues like pneumonia or bacterial infections, which are not commonly caused by colds, according to the CDC.

Talk with your physician for more information about the difference between a cold and the flu.

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Can a cold turn into the flu?

Dr. Ordway explains how a cold can turn into the flu. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Both a cold and the flu are caused by viruses, but they are each caused by a different virus, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Being worn down from having an ongoing cold, has the possibility of making it easier for someone to also catch a flu virus, but the virus that causes a cold cannot turn into the flu, according to the AAFP.

For more information about colds and flus, talk with your doctor.

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What is the difference between a viral and bacterial infection?

Janet Smith, CNP explains the difference between a viral and bacterial infection. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A virus is a tiny capsule with genetic material inside, and it can cause infectious diseases including colds, the flu and warts, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A virus wants to invade normal, living cells and use them to produce other viruses, according to the NIH.

Viral infections are hard to treat because viruses live inside the body’s cells and protect themselves from medicine, according to the NIH. Antibiotics do not work on viral infections.

That is the biggest difference between viral infections and bacterial infections. As opposed to viral infections, antibiotics are typically used to treat bacterial infections, according to the NIH.

Bacteria are one-celled organisms. Many types of bacteria are useful to us in digesting food, destroying disease-causing cells, and giving the body vitamins, according to the NIH.

But, the infectious types of bacteria reproduce quickly in the body and make people sick. Bacterial infections include E. coli, streptococcus (strep) and staphylococcus (staph), according to the NIH.

For more information about the difference between bacterial infections and viral infections, talk with your physician.

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When does the flu season typically begin and end?

Flu season in the United States typically covers the fall and winter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Flu season can start as early as October and last as long as May. Ohio’s flu season usually peaks in February, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

Talk with your physician for more information about flu season and getting vaccinated in time for flu season.

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How long are individuals contagious with a cold or flu?

Janet Smith, CNP discusses cold and flu concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Both colds and flu can be contagious even before people know they are sick.

With the flu:

  • Adults can infect other people one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Children can infect people up to four days before symptoms show, and in total, children can pass the virus to others for more than seven days, according to the CDC.

When someone has a cold, they are contagious the day before they know they are sick and are most likely to pass on their sickness in the first two to three days of having the cold, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A cold should not be contagious after a week, according to the NIH.

Talk to your physician for more information about how long cold and the flu can be contagious.

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What causes a common cold?

Dr. Lauricella explains what causes a cold. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A common cold is caused by a virus, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon(AAFP).

There are more than 200 types of viruses that can cause someone to get a cold, according to the AAFP.

The most common cause of cold is the rhinovirus, which leads to about 40 percent of all colds, according to Premier HealthNet physicians.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent against a cold and there is no cure for the sickness, according to the AAFP. Once someone gets a cold, the body has to fight off the virus in order to feel better.

For more information about what causes a common cold, talk with your doctor.

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When is someone contagious with the flu?

People can be contagious with the flu even before they know they are infected with the virus.

For most healthy adults, they are able to infect other people one day before flu symptoms start, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Symptoms can start between one and four days after the virus enters your body.

An adult with the flu will still be contagious for up to five to seven days after they first became sick. A child with the flu can be contagious for more than seven days, according to the CDC.

For more information about when someone is contagious with the flu, talk with your doctor.

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How is the flu virus spread?

Dr. Lauricella explains how the flu virus spreads. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The flu virus is very contagious. People can spread it to one another from up to 6 feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks, drops can come out of their mouth or nose and be inhaled or go in the mouth or nose of other people nearby, according to the CDC.

It is also possible – but less likely – for a sick person to spread the flu by touching something that another person then touches before touching their nose or mouth, according to the CDC.

Talk to your physician for more information about how the flu is spread.

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What can adults do in the workplace to prevent the spread of the flu virus?

The first thing adults should do to help prevent the spread of the flu virus in the workplace is to get their yearly flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine protects against three flu viruses that research has shown will be the most common during the coming flu season.

Everyone 6 months old and older should get the vaccine, unless you are one of the few people with an adverse reaction, according to the CDC.

Another was to fight the spread of the flu virus in the workplace is to take preventive steps.

Some preventive actions that you can take to prevent the spread of the flu, according to the CDC, include:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect shared workspace and other surfaces, including doorknobs, phones and pens
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue of your elbow when you sneeze or cough
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitizer if you don’t have soap) often

One other way to prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace is to take antiviral medications when symptoms first occur and if your doctor prescribed them, according to the CDC. Antiviral drugs are not antibiotics, but they can help make the sickness shorter and the symptoms milder.

Talk to your doctor for more ideas on how to prevent spreading the flu in your workplace.

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What is the best treatment for a common cold?

Janet Smith, CNP discusses the best treatment for a common cold. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A cold is a virus and should not be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics don’t work against viruses, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The best ways to treat a cold include:

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep
  • Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer to loosen mucus
  • Try over-the-counter saline nasal sprays
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever – such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Use throat drops to soothe pain
  • Drink warm fluids – such as tea or soup – to loosen mucus
  • Gargle with warm saltwater

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines don’t make colds go away faster, but they can help ease cold symptoms for adults and older children, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For more information about how to treat a cold, talk with your physician.

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Where can people go to educate themselves about the flu?

There are a variety of places people can go to find information to educate themselves about the flu.

From the comfort of home, you can learn a lot about the flu by visiting a few reliable websites, including:

  • CDC.gov Off Site Icon– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has entire sections devoted to information about the seasonal flu. Learn key facts about the flu, flu vaccines, prevention and information specific to this year’s flu season.
  • Flu.gov Off Site Icon – Flu.gov is a website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it is dedicated to providing information about various types of flus, including the seasonal flu.
  • NCOA.org Off Site Icon– The National Council on Aging also has a lot of information available about the flu. Their “Flu + You” page provides a lot of information for older adults and their caregivers about the importance of flu vaccines, dangers of the flu and much more.

Another resource to educate yourself about the flu is your local health department, which should have not only information about the flu in general but also specifics about the flu in your area.

Of course, your physician is also a good resource to reach out to for information about the flu itself or for reliable flu education resources.

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When should I get a flu shot?

Janet Smith, CNP discusses cold and flu concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

People should get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available, which can be as early as August, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It can take two weeks after getting a flu vaccine for antibodies to form and protect you against the flu, according to the CDC.

The flu season can last from October through May, with the worst part being in January or February. Even getting the flu vaccine as early as August, its protection should last through the entire season, according to the CDC.

Talk to your physician about when the flu vaccine will be available to you in his or her office and when you can get yours.

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How is a person diagnosed with the flu?

Dr. Hodges discusses cold and flu concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Flu symptoms – such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, chills and fatigue – can be signs that you have the flu, but the flu cannot always be diagnosed by symptoms only.

There are a variety of tests that can be done to check you for the flu virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:

  • Rapid influenza diagnostic tests – These are most common tests and provide results in 30 minutes or less. Though quick, these tests are not the most accurate.
  • Laboratory tests – These tests take longer than the rapid tests but are more sensitive to the flu virus and more accurate. These tests require a swab to be taken inside your nose or the back of your throat, which will be sent for testing.

Not everyone who visits their doctor with flu symptoms will be tested for the flu. Your physician might diagnose you with the flu based on your symptoms, according to the CDC.

If there is a flu outbreak or if you are in a high risk group – pregnant or with a weakened immune system – your physician might test you to get a more accurate diagnosis to determine your care.

Talk to your physician for more information about the flu testing available and if any is right for you.

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Who should get a flu vaccine?

The flu can lead to other very serious illnesses and even hospitalization, so it is important that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is even more important for some people to get vaccinated, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years old or older
  • People with medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
  • People who live with or care for others who are at high risk, including people with asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease and the elderly
  • People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for infants and young children
  • Children 6 months old or older
  • Health care workers

Even if you have already gotten the flu this season, it is still important to get a flu vaccine to help prevent against getting the flu again.

There are two types of flu vaccines – a flu shot and a nasal spray flu vaccine. The shot version is approved for everyone 6 months old and older. The nasal spray version is only approved for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, according to the CDC.

Talk to your doctor for more information about why it is important for you to get the flu vaccine.

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How do flu vaccines work?

Dr. Ordway explains how flu vaccines work. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Vaccines help the body to develop immunity by imitating an infection, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

By acting like the flu virus, the flu vaccine causes the immune system to make antibodies, which leave behind a kind of antibodies that remember how to fight the virus, according to the HHS.

The body might have some symptoms to the fake infection in the vaccine – such as a fever – which is a normal part of the body building up its immunity, according to the HHS.

For more information about how the flu vaccine works, talk with your physician.

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How long is someone safeguarded from the flu after getting a flu vaccination?

It is important to be vaccinated against the flu every year. Getting vaccinated in the early fall season is best because it allows for time to build up your immunity before flu season is in full swing, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

A flu vaccine protects against the flu for one full flu season, according to the HHS. The vaccine is not designed to last for multiple years, and it changes each year to defend against the three flu virus strains most likely to cause issues that year.

Talk with your doctor for more information about how long the flu vaccine will safeguard against the virus.

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What groups of people are high-risk during flu season?

Dr. Hodges talks about groups of people who are at high risk of getting the flu. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

There are a variety of groups of people who are at a higher risk of catching the flu and of having complications from it. Though everyone 6 months old and older should get vaccinated, it is most-important for these high-risk groups to get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

High-risk groups of people, according to the CDC, include:

  • Infants and children
  • People 65 and older
  • People with disabilities, including people with limited mobility and limited communications skills
  • People with medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
  • People who live with or care for others at high risk
  • Pregnant women

For more information about who is at high risk of getting the flu, talk with your physician.

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How old does a child need to be before they can receive a flu vaccination?

Infants must be 6 months old before they are able to get a flu vaccine, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

It is recommended that everyone older than 6 months old get a flu vaccine. Children between 6 months and 2 years old should get the shot, and after 2 years of age, there is an option of the flu shot or a nasal spray vaccine, according to the HHS.

Talk with your physician for more information about how old a child needs to be to get a flu vaccine.

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How can a baby who is too young to receive the vaccination be protected against the flu?

Dr. Lauricella discusses how to protect a baby from the flu. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Because babies younger than 6 months old can’t get the flu vaccine, it’s important that parents, family members, babysitters and other caregivers work together to protect them from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) recommend taking the following steps to protect a baby who can’t yet get the vaccine:

  • Actively take precautions – Try to keep your baby away from sick people. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hand with soap and water frequently. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including countertops, doorknobs, faucet handles and light switches.
  • Consider antiviral drugs – Antiviral drugs (different from antibiotics) can help keep someone from getting sick and also can make a sick person’s symptoms much milder.
  • Get the flu vaccine – Anyone in the household or who will be caring for the baby should get a flu vaccine every year to help make it less likely for the flu to spread.

For more information about how to protect a baby who is too young for the flu shot from the flu.

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What steps should be taken to keep family members healthy if one person in the home becomes ill with the flu?

Dr. Lauricella discusses the difference between the flu and pneumonia. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If one person in your house has the flu, it’s important to take steps to try to prevent others from getting it also.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS) recommends taking the following steps to help stop the spread of the flu:

  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and throw the tissue away
  • Have good health habits, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy food, exercising, managing stress and drinking plenty of fluids
  • Keep the sick person home for at least 24 hours after a fever has gone away without using any medication
  • Limit contact with the sick person as much as possible
  • Use an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not available
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water

Also, make sure everyone in the house has gotten a flu shot to help protect against the flu.

Talk to your doctor for more information about keeping the whole family healthy once one person has the flu.

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What preventive steps should be taken by a loved one who lives with someone at high risk during flu season?

Dr. Hodges discusses preventive steps loved ones can take if they live with someone at high risk during flu season. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The most important step that can be taken by caregivers or other loved ones who live with someone at high risk during the flu season is getting a flu vaccine themselves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By getting the flu vaccine, loved ones have done their best to prevent themselves from getting the flu and passing it along to the high-risk person they are in close contact with.

Other ways to help prevent passing the flu to a loved one you live with, according to the CDC, include:

  • Hand washing – Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer to stop the spread of any germs you might have come in contact with
  • Surface cleaning – Get in the habit of wiping down common surfaces, including kitchen counters, bathroom counters, doorknobs, faucet handles, and more, to help keep germs from spreading

Ask your doctor for more information about what you can preventive steps you can take if you live with someone at high risk of getting the flu.

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What is the best treatment for the flu?

Dr. Hodges discuss treatment options for the flu. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Your doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to fight the flu when you have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Antiviral drugs can lessen the symptoms of the flu and shorten the time you have the flu by a day or two. They can also help prevent the flu turning into a more serious sickness, according to the CDC.

Whether or not you take antiviral drugs, if you have the flu, you should take care of yourself by:

  • Getting a lot of rest and sleep
  • Drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat achiness and treat cough and fever

If you are experiencing flu symptoms, talk to your physician for more information about what treatment options are best for you.

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What are some warning signs that the flu is becoming more serious?

In general, flu symptoms aren’t fun, but if they start getting too bad, it’s time to see your doctor to determine what to do next, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

The following flu symptoms could be a sign that your sickness is getting worse than a typical flu, according to the AAFP:

  • Being disoriented
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fainting or feeling faint
  • Fever about 102 for a prolonged time that is combines with achiness and fatigue
  • Neck and jaw glands that are very swollen
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Severe sinus pain or the face and forehead
  • Symptoms getting worse instead of better or lasting more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing, including shortness of breath

For more information about how to tell if the flu is getting worse instead of better, talk with your physician.

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What causes someone to be hospitalized for the flu?

If your flu symptoms don’t start getting better little-by-little after a few days, but instead continue getting worse, you can end up in need of medical attention, according to the U. S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

You should seek emergency medical assistance and could be hospitalized if you are experiencing these symptoms, according to the HHS:

  • Abdomen or chest pain or pressure
  • Becoming dizzy
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath
  • Discoloration of the lips to blue or purple
  • Flu-like symptoms that seem to get better, but then return with a worse cough and fever
  • Seizures
  • Severe vomiting

If you are concerned that your flu symptoms are getting worse – especially if you have any of these symptoms listed, talk to your doctor right away.

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What is the difference between influenza A, B, and C?

Influenza – commonly known as the flu – is classified as three different types based on its nucleic acids and protein composition, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Once tested, the flu is categorized as Type A, Type B, or Type C.

Type A flu viruses are found in humans and also in some animals, including ducks, chickens, and pigs, according to the NIH.

There are numerous types and subtypes of the Type A flu virus. Type A usually has the most severe flu symptoms and most frequently leads to extreme illness, including hospitalization and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Type B flu viruses are common among humans, according to the NIH.

The symptoms of Type B are similar to Type A. Both influenza A and B are immunized against in the annual flu vaccine, according to the CDC.

Influenza Type C has much milder symptoms, according to the NIH. It causes mild respiratory infections, but it is not severe enough to cause global outbreaks like Type A has in the past.

Symptoms of Type C are most similar to those of a cold, and the flu vaccine does not protect against influenza Type C viruses, according to the CDC.

For more about the difference between influenza types A, B, and C, talk with your doctor.

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How are flu types diagnosed?

Determining the difference in types of influenza is done with lab testing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Some rapid influenza diagnostic tests – which can provide results within 15 minutes – can identify the difference between Type A and Type B, according to the CDC.

If the rapid test does not determine which type of flu virus it is, other blood or lab work can be done by your physician to find out.

Talk to your doctor to find out more about how flu types are diagnosed.

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Why might it be important to know which type of flu a person has?

Knowing what type of flu virus you have might not seem important, but it can make a difference to the type of care you receive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Influenza Type A, and sometimes Type B, can require medication if caught early enough. The medication can significantly reduce how sever the flu is and how long it lasts, according to the CDC.

Not treating these types of the flu can become dangerous to your health, possibly leading to hospitalization and even death, according to the CDC.

For more information about why it can be important to know what type of flu you have, talk with your physician.

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What is the difference between the flu and pneumonia?

Dr. Ordway discusses the difference between the flu and pneumonia. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The flu and pneumonia are both serious illnesses, and the flu can be a common cause of pneumonia. However, both sicknesses affect the body differently, according to the American Lung AssociationOff Site Icon (ALA).

According to the ALA, differences between the flu and pneumonia include:

  • Flu – A virus that is highly contagious, the flu becomes most severe in the winter.
  • Pneumonia - This serious infection or inflammation of the lungs causes the air sacs to fill with pus or liquid, which blocks oxygen from getting to the bloodstream.

There are vaccinations that can prevent some types of the flu and pneumonia.

For more information about how the flu and pneumonia are different, talk with your physician.

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How can the flu cause pneumonia?

While there are many causes of pneumonia, one cause is the flu, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Bacteria are the most common cause of pneumonia in adults, and many types of bacteria can cause pneumonia, according to the NIH. Bacterial pneumonia sometimes occurs on its own, and other times it is caused by a cold or the flu.

If you have the flu, drinking lots of fluids, avoiding antihistamines, not smoking and avoiding alcohol are all good ways to help avoid having the flu turn into pneumonia, according to the American Lung AssociationOff Site Icon.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how the flu can cause pneumonia.

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What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Dr. Ordway explains the symptoms of pneumonia. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The symptoms of pneumonia can be anywhere from mild to severe and can vary depending on the type of germ that caused the pneumonia and your general health, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Symptoms of pneumonia, according to the NIH, include:

  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Cough with phlegm that gets worse instead of better
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling suddenly worse after having a cold or the flu
  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath doing normal activities
  • Vomiting

Symptoms can be different in newborns and the elderly, by either not showing right away or seeming milder, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor right away if you are concerned you have these pneumonia symptoms and for more information about the illness.

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How do antibiotics work, and why are they prescribed?

Dr. Hodges discusses how antibiotics work and why they are prescribed. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Antibiotics are strong medicines that fight bacterial infections by killing the bacteria or keeping them from reproducing, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Antibiotics are prescribed to fight off bacterial infections until your body’s natural defenses are strong enough to take over as you work your way back to health, according to the NIH.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), some reasons your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic include:

  • Cough or bronchitis – Usually, these illnesses are caused by viruses. When symptoms last a long time, it may be determined that they are caused by bacteria. In those cases, your doctor might decide to prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Sore throat – Sore throats are usually caused by viruses and don’t need antibiotics. Bacteria do, however, cause strep throat. If your doctor thinks you have strep throat, you will be tested to determine whether you need an antibiotic.
  • Ear infections – Antibiotics work to care for some but not all ear infections.
  • Sinus infections – Physicians often prescribe antibiotics to treat sinus infections, but discolored mucus from a runny nose does not necessarily mean you have a sinus infection or need an antibiotic.

For more information about how antibiotics work and why they might be prescribed, talk with your physician.

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What are the risks of taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed?

Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed is risky because it can cause antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance means the antibiotics no longer work against the bacteria, and it is usually caused by antibiotics being used too often or not correctly, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

To avoid antibiotic resistance, it is important to understand that antibiotics are not necessary for every illness, according to the AAFP. Antibiotics do nothing for viral illnesses, such as colds or the flu, and it is better just to fight through those types of sicknesses with rest and fluids.

Another risk of taking antibiotics you don’t need is the general side effects from or allergies to the medication, according to the AAFP.

For more information about the risks of taking antibiotics that aren’t needed, talk with your doctor.

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Is using hand sanitizer the same as washing my hands or is one better?

There is no substitute for washing your hands with soap and water, but using hand sanitizer is the best option when soap and water are not available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When washing your hands with soap and water to reduce germs, make sure to:

  • Take jewelry off
  • Wet hands and apply soap
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather
  • Scrub the backs of your hands, your fingers and clean under your nails
  • Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds – about how long it takes to hum the entire Happy Birthday song twice
  • Rinse well
  • Dry off with a clean towel or let them air dry

When using hand sanitizer, remember:

  • It must contain at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective
  • It is not effective when your hands are visible dirty
  • Apply it to the palm of one hand, then rub hands together
  • Rub the sanitizer all over the surfaces of your hands and fingers until they are dry

Keeping your hands clean is the most important step you can take to prevent getting sick and spreading germs, according to the CDC.

Talk to your physician for more information about hand washing and how it can keep you healthy.

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What is gastroenteritis?

Dr. Aaron Block discusses gastroenteritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of your intestines, and it’s caused by bacteria, parasites, or a virus, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

Viral gastroenteritis is the second most common sickness in the United States, and it’s often caused by norovirus.

It spreads through food or water that is contaminated and also by being in contact with a person who has it.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

Talk to your doctor for more information about gastroenteritis.

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Is there such a thing as the “stomach flu”?

Dr. Aaron Block discusses whether you can catch the “stomach flu”. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

We’ve all heard people talk about having the stomach flu. But is there such a thing?

What people often call the stomach flu is actually viral gastroenteritis, which includes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and fever, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

So, no, there is no actual sickness called the stomach flu.

Talk to your doctor for more information about whether you can catch the stomach flu.

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What is the best way to treat gastroenteritis?

Dr. Aaron Block discusses the best way to treat gastroenteritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Gastroenteritis – specifically the viral kind – is a sickness you have to wait out while your immune system goes to work.

It’s important to drink fluids whenever possible. Don’t let vomiting or diarrhea go on for more than 24 hours without being able to keep fluids down, or you can risk becoming dehydrated, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

If you can’t keep fluids down, visit your doctor, who might be able to provide anti-nausea medication so that you can at least drink to stay hydrated.

Other steps you can take to help get over a case of gastroenteritis include getting plenty of rest; drinking rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte or watered-down Gatorade; and eating bland foods once you feel up to it, such as rice, potatoes, bread, or applesauce.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how to treat gastroenteritis.

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Are there times when you need medical intervention for gastroenteritis?

Dr. Aaron Block discusses whether there are times medical intervention is needed for gastroenteritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Gastroenteritis is something that has to work its way through your system and your body has to fight off on its own. But, there are definitely times when you need medical attention.

Vomiting and having diarrhea can quickly make you dehydrated. If you can’t drink enough to rehydrate yourself, you need to see your doctor for help, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

A high fever – above 104 degrees for an adult and above 102 degrees for a child – would be a sign to visit your doctor.

Your physician can also help with your care if you have severe abdominal cramps that become unbearable, and you’re not able to get them in control.

For more information about when to seek medical attention for gastroenteritis, talk with your doctor.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about cold and flu:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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