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Healthy Living: Influenza

Although influenza activity has been relatively low in 2010, the CDC is reminding Americans it is expected to increase as we move into the winter months. It has been reported that there is a sharp increase in influenza-like illness reported in the southeast United States, particularly in Georgia. 

CDC said influenza B strain is the main culprit of the activity in Georgia and is primarily occurring in school-aged children. The agency also indicated that current evidence suggests that this season’s vaccine is a good match for the three influenza virus strains (2009 H1N1A virus, influenza A H3N2 and influenza B) primarily seen thus far. 

Although most people recover from the flu with no problems, over 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with the illness and as many as 36,000 die.  

With that being said, What is the different between the cold and flu? 

The common cold and the flu are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms.  The main difference between the common cold and the flu is the severity of the symptoms.   

Common cold symptoms:
• Gradually get worse over a few days.
• Are more likely to include runny or stuffy nose than the flu.
• Often include a sore throat, while flu rarely does.
• May cause tiredness, but it is much less severe than what is experienced with the flu.
• Generally do not result in serious health problems and hospitalizations.

Flu symptoms generally:
• Come on quickly and are more severe.
• Include fever (which can last 3 to 4 days and is generally higher than the low grade fever that may accompany a cold.)
• Include body aches, extreme tiredness, weakness, fatigue, headache, and dry cough.

The flu can result in serious health complications including bronchitis, and pneumonia. 

What is the treatment? 


Depending on your symptoms and your health, you may have several options for cold and flu treatments.  A cold does not usually require a visit to the doctor.  You can do a lot to take care of yourself and your family at home.  While there is no cure for the common cold, taking over-the-counter medications to ease the symptoms, getting extra rest, and taking care of your self is essential.  Some good old chicken soup is not a bad idea either! 


The best way to treat the flu, of course, is to prevent it.  Getting a flu shot every year will greatly reduce your risk of getting the flu. Flu shots are available at many Brookshire/Super 1 pharmacies.  Ask your pharmacist for details.   

Once you have the flu, early detection is critical.  If you realize or suspect that you have the flu within 48 hours of the start of symptoms, you could suffer a lot less.  Taking Tamiflu or another antiviral medication may help shorten the duration or reduce the symptoms of the flu.  Taking over-the-counter medications, getting extra rest, and some good old chicken soup, are also other ways to help make you more comfortable.

Since the common cold and the flu are both caused by viruses, antibiotics will not help.  Plus, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. 

Hopefully these tips will help if you find yourself feeling “under the weather.”  Don’t’ forget frequent hand washing is one of the most effective ways to stop germs from spreading from one person to another.  Also remember, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away!”

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