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This Month In Health
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    A runny nose, an annoying cough, and a fever. Is it a simple cold or is it the dreaded flu? Here are a few ways to self-diagnose your symptoms, the best ways to treat your illness, and tips to prevent sickness altogether. Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Welcome Back, Cold and Flu

Can you tell the difference? Plus, tips to stay healthy this year.

A runny nose, an annoying cough, and a fever. Is it a simple cold or is it the dreaded flu? While they are both respiratory illnesses, colds and flu are caused by different viruses. Since their symptoms can be so similar, sometimes it takes tests to diagnose for sure. Should you go to the doctor to find out? Sitting in a crowded waiting room full of other sick people is the last thing you feel like doing, so how can you know what’s causing your symptoms?
Before running the risks inherent in every medical waiting room the next time you or your family member is sick, here are a few ways to self-diagnose your symptoms, the best ways to treat your illness, and tips to prevent sickness altogether.

Common Colds

It’s safe to say that cold symptoms are generally much less severe than those experienced with the flu. Symptoms of the flu usually come on gradually. You feel a slight sore throat, your nose starts to run, and you start to sneeze. You may develop a cough, mild chest discomfort, and feel more tired than usual. Fevers are rare with a cold, but if you do have one it’ll be low-grade and short-lived. Chills and body aches are possible, but will be slight and probably won’t be accompanied with a headache.

Colds can last a week or two, but there are ways to relieve your symptoms in the meantime. Antibiotics do nothing to treat a cold so a visit to the doctor is usually unnecessary. Instead, get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. For a sore throat, gargle with salt water or suck on hard candy or a throat lozenge. Use over-the-counter nasal sprays or drops or sip warm liquids to relieve congestion. A cool-mist humidifier can help loosen chest congestion, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relive pain, while cold and cough medications may bring temporary relief to symptoms.

Facing Flu

If it’s the flu, you feel really crummy really fast. Symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, cough, chest discomfort, headache, and fatigue. You may have a runny nose and sneezing, but this is more common with a cold. All you feel like doing is lying in bed in a quiet, dark room.

The flu typically lasts one to two weeks. As long as symptoms are present, stay away from other people, get as much rest as possible, drink plenty of fluids, breath humid air, and use over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.

Should you make an appointment to see the doctor if you have the flu? Most likely, your doctor will prescribe home care to relieve symptoms. Only if taken within the first couple days of the onset of symptoms can antiviral drugs lessen the duration of the flu by one or two days and help prevent complications of the flu. Despite the minimal effectiveness of medication, sometimes the flu warrants a trip to the doctor. Seek medical attention if you experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, severe vomiting, if medications fail to bring down a high fever, if your symptoms return after you thought you were getting better, or if you’re at risk for dehydration.

Practical Prevention

Unless you live in a bubble, you can’t avoid catching a virus now and then. However, there are ways to lessen your chances of coming down with a respiratory illness this season. Protect yourself and your family by getting a flu vaccine. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and eat healthy foods for the greatest chance at prevention!