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Managing Your Cold or Flu

Cold and Flu Treatment

The “common cold” is caused by more than 200 known viruses. Cold symptoms usually resolve in 7-14 days. Influenza originates from viruses also, but cause a more severe respiratory illness. Young children, people with heart, lung, kidney, or immuno-suppressed conditions, and those aged 65 or older have a higher risk of complications which can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. The flu vaccine minimizes the dangerous consequences of influenza.

A cold and flu have many of the same symptoms. A cold is generally milder, while the flu tends to be more severe. The flu starts suddenly and hits hard. It usually takes longer to get over the flu than over a cold.

What Can I Take?

  • Antihistamines: Help dry up a runny nose and relieve sneezing. Avoid them when you are congested. They can make mucus thicker and harder to drain which can make sinus symptoms worse.
  • Decongestants: (Pills or sprays) Relieves sinus pressure and stuffy nose. Help you breathe easier. Do not use decongestant nose sprays longer than 3 days.
  • Cough Suppressants containing dexromethorphan DM (tablets, lozenges, syrups) help to quiet coughs. Some common psychiatric medications can interact with DM; check with your Pharmacist or health provider before taking.
  • Pain relievers – acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin):   taken as directed help relieve aches headache, fever, and sore throat.

Wash your hands often!

Washing your hands with soap and water helps prevent the spread of colds and flu. Keeping your hands away from your face minimizes your risk of infection. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand wipes and gel sanitizers.

If you have cold or flu symptoms and any of the following:

  • A severe headache
  • A chronic medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes
  • An extremely red or persistent sore throat
  • Or, no improvement in 7 days, seek medical care!

Wondering if you should go to class or to work?

Here’s how to tell whether you are well enough to go to work or class, or if you need to seek medical care.

  • SNEEZING: If you are sneezing, itching, or sniffling – but not achy or feverish, it’s probably allergies – GO TO CLASS OR WORK!
  • CHILLS or SWEATS: If you are drenched with sweat, you likely have a fever. When you have a fever – DO NOT GO TO CLASS OR WORK! YOU ARE CONTAGIOUS. SEEK MEDICAL CARE!
  • COUGHING: If infrequent and feels like a tickle in the throat or postnasal drip, the cough may be allergies or the common cold. Unless you have other symptoms such as fever or aches – GO TO CLASS OR WORK!
    • If your cough is painful, productive, causes wheezing or you feel short of breath – SEEK MEDICAL CARE!
  • PINKEYE: If your eyes are bright red, there’s a discharge, or your eyelashes are getting matted, that is likely pinkeye – HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS DON’T GO TO CLASS OR WORK. SEEK MEDICAL CARE!
  • SINUS PAIN: Pain around eyes, top of forehead, cheekbones, even the top of your teeth, may be a sinus infection or the common cold – CALL IN SICK OR DON’T GO TO CLASS, AND SEEK MEDICAL CARE!
  • EARACHE: If your ear really hurts and you can’t hear well, you may have an ear infection. Ear infections don’t get better on their own. You’re not contagious, but you need to – SEEK MEDICAL CARE!