Is It a Cold? Or Something Worse?

The typical American adult has two to four colds every year, and a child, as many as 10. They are usually uneventful: a week to 10 days of sniffling, sneezing and coughing, and then a recovery.

Despite what your mother or grandmother may have told you, you can’t catch a cold from getting your feet wet, or becoming chilled or overheated. A cold is caused by a virus, one of more than 200 different kinds; the most common is rhinovirus, which typically circulates in early fall and late spring.

Once exposed it takes one to three days before you start feeling symptoms. The first sign is usually a sore or scratchy throat followed by sneezing and clear, watery drainage from your noise.

Protecting Yourself

While it’s always important to cover your coughs and sneezes, disease is usually transmitted directly or indirectly from the hands of infected individuals. The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

Occasionally a simple cold evolves into something more serious that requires a doctor’s attention.

Is It The Flu?

Cold and flu symptoms are similar but if you have the flu, you usually know it. “The major difference is fever – usually one to two degrees and over,” according to Sandie Quade, APNP, a nurse practitioner with the Ripon Medical Center Primary Care Services. “Antibiotics are useless against the flu, as they are against a cold, but two antiviral, medications – Tamiflu and Relenza- are highly effective, particularly if taken within 48 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms.”

Other illnesses that can result from the flu are sinusitis, ear infections, strep throat, acute bronchitis and allergic rhinitis. See a healthcare provider immediately if your cold symptoms get worse because it could lead to other serious conditions.

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