(10/17/13) - What has you or your co-workers calling in sick? The symptoms start off pretty much the same for most of the top fall and winter ailments.
But, knowing the difference can give you a better idea whether to do to the doctor, ask for antibiotics or ride it all out. If you really are not sure what's ailing you, take heart, you are not the only one who gets confused this time of year.
"Patients are often confused about these symptoms as well as physicians and the reason being is because each of these three conditions, cold, flu and allergies can present in a very similar fashion," says Dr. Nathan Kopek of Genesys Downtown Flint Health Clinic.
A key difference between a cold and flu is usually the severity of symptoms. Both can have headache, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, runny nose and congestion.
Kopek says those are all more intense and combine with other rough symptoms when the flu comes knocking, "patients tend to have much more severe symptoms, high fevers, fevers sometimes up to 103, coughing, severe pains - muscle body aches and pains."
The flu often causes overwhelming exhaustion, but a lot of us can function fine with a cold. Which is good, because you pretty much just have to ride out a cold.
If you do have the flu, Dr. Kopek says, getting to the doctor right after your symptoms start could help, "there are some anti-viral agents, if we are able to see you within the first 48 hours of infection, we can provide you with some antiviral medications and that can reduce the duration of the symptoms."
Anti-virals are drugs like Tamiflu. They are not the same thing as antibiotics, which are designed to treat bacterial infections. The cold and flu are viruses, and do not respond to antibiotics.
Let's just get this out of the way, and talk about mucus. It usually starts out clear with either a cold, flu, or allergies.
With a cold or flu, mucus can become yellow or green- and that is not necessarily a bad thing, Kopek says, "that's where some people think they need an antibiotic because maybe I have a sinus infection, when really that's just kind of the natural progression of the illness, and that means you are starting to get to the point where you are recovering."
If it is allergies that have you down, your mucus will stay clear. Your doctor may be able to give you a shot, along with some over the counter allergy drugs, and get you on the road to feeling better.
If you are not getting better after a couple of weeks, and you start having sinus drainage, then an antibiotic might be in order, because it may actually help.
Bottom line, to try and prevent colds and flu from spreading. Use over the counter drugs, to keep your symptoms down. You also need to wash your hands a lot and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
A flu shot is still what most doctors say is the best defense against getting the flu.
ABC12 Main Station