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Influenza or flu

Influenza or flu and the common cold: More usual than seasonal
By Dr. Guillermo Parra, M.D.

Coming back from a recent trip, I had to make a stop to the bank and, not surprisingly at all, the bank clerk was sneezing and coughing repeatedly.
“You are obviously under the weather. You should be resting, not working,” I told her. “Yes. I have been feeling like this for several days.
It is incredible but I’m from Michigan and when I was living there, I never got sick. Where I’m from, cold weathers are severe and winter seasons are longer than here. Here the weather is nicer, but the fact that it is very cold early in the mornings and it gets warmer during the day only to get colder again at dusk affected me big time,” she assured.

“Well, that’s one of the things that can rattle things up the most for us. We must be aware of the temperature outside and be very careful when the wind is strong,” I responded.

That brief but eye-opening conversation with the bank clerk inspired me to write this article to help you, dear reader, be prepared to prevent or to take care of yourself should you get sick with a common cold, the virus of influenza or come down with the flu.

Some people think they are two different things, but flu is the short word for influenza, a respiratory virus that affects the throat, nose, bronchi and, sometimes, the lungs. There are different types of influenza viruses and they evolve and change from year to year. A very important thing is that people can mistake the symptoms of the flu for those of the common cold.

Perhaps the biggest differences between cold and flu is the accompanying fever. The common cold usually causes a low-grade fever, while the flu can produce a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).Colds rarely cause fevers or headaches and the flu almost never causes an upset stomach.

The main symptoms of the flu are: headache, aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs, fever, chills and sweats, sore throat, dry, persistent cough, weakness and nasal congestion. Usually, the time of recovery from the flu is in between one to two weeks, but some people risk developing complications such as pneumonia. The most affected groups are children and seniors. When coming down with the flu, the most important thing is to get plenty of rest and to drink plenty of liquids. Also, since flu and cold viruses are easily spread, it is very important to remember to wash your hands often, practice good hygiene, keep surfaces clean and cover with your elbow or sleeve when sneezing. The only ways to create antibodies are to get infected or to get the vaccine.

Since viruses change year to year, it is important to be vaccinated every year. Medications over the counter are effective, but remember that you need to visit your doctor. Another main thing to consider is that many people comes down with the flu or cold when the weather is changing, hence, the importance of visiting a doctor to be sure you can both learn to prevent and deal with this common health problem.

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