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Colds and the flu
How can I tell if I have a cold or the flu?
Although the common cold and the flu share many similar symptoms, they are two different conditions. The symptoms of a cold develop slowly and can include:
Runny or stuffy nose (often with green or yellow-colored discharge)
Cold symptoms are generally milder than flu symptoms. Flu symptoms usually appear very suddenly and can include:
Fatigue and muscle aches, especially in your back, arms and legs
What causes colds and the flu?
Viruses cause the common cold and the flu. Over 200 different viruses can cause colds. There are not as many viruses that cause the flu. That's why there's a shot for the flu and not for colds.
What can I do to feel better?
There's no cure for the common cold. All you can do to feel better is to treat your symptoms while your body fights off the virus.
For the flu, your doctor will probably recommend that you treat the symptoms until you feel better. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine. Antiviral medicines can shorten the length of time you are sick with the flu if started within 24 hours of symptoms developing. These medicines come as pills.
Ways to treat your cold and flu symptoms
Get plenty of rest, especially while you have a fever.
Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, which can make cold symptoms worse.
Drink lots of fluids like water and clear soups. Fluids help loosen mucus. Fluids are also important because they help prevent dehydration.
Gargle with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve a sore throat. Throat sprays or lozenges may also help relieve the pain.
Use saline (salt water) nose drops to help loosen mucus and moisten the tender skin in your nose.
What over-the-counter medicine can I take for a cold or the flu?
No over-the-counter medicine can cure a cold or the flu. Medicine can, however, help relieve some of your cold or flu symptoms. Tylenol or Motrin can be used to help reduce fever. Over-the-counter cold and cough medication may help relieve some of your other symptoms. For specific symptoms, consult your pharmacist.
Should I call my doctor?
You should seek medical treatment for any concerns. If you have questions, you may contact Student Health
Services at (336) 841-4683. During flu and cold season, we have an increased volume of students and you may
desire to call ahead to determine the wait time. It is usually better to come in to Student Health Services as
early as you can in the day. If you have a medical need or question after the hours of Student Health Services,
you should call their number (336) 841-4683 and you will be directed to either High Point Family Practice (they
have extended hours on most days and weekends) or to our 24-hour nurse triage service. They will assist you
in determining the next appropriate step in obtaining medical care. Can I prevent catching a cold or the flu?
You can reduce your risk of catching a cold or the flu by washing your hands frequently, which stops the
spread of germs. Eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep also play a part in preventing colds and
the flu because they help boost your immune system.
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine. You should get the vaccine when it
becomes available each fall (in October or November), but you can also get it any time throughout the flu
season (into December, January and beyond). The vaccine is available by shot or by nasal spray. The vaccines
work by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. Your body will build up antibodies to the virus to
protect you from getting the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses. The nasal-spray vaccine contains live but
weakened viruses. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal-spray vaccine.
Some people who get the vaccine will still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than people who
aren't vaccinated. The vaccine is especially recommended for people who are more likely to get really sick
from flu-related complications. If you are sick, make sure that you cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands often to
prevent giving your cold or flu to others.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
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