I Think I Have a Cold. Now What Do I Do?
TAMPA, Fla., March 1 /PRNewswire/ — Alan Smith, M.D., Senior Medical Director of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. offers the following advice:
You wake up with a runny nose and your throat feels sore. Within a day, a nagging cough sets in and you know you’re sick. Is it the flu? Is it allergies, or is it the common cold? Since each of these is a respiratory illness, it could be hard, if not impossible, to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. And how do you treat an illness that you can’t identify?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), colds are generally milder than the flu. With a cold, people usually get a runny or stuffy nose as opposed to the fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough that characterize the flu. Allergies can mimic the same symptoms as a cold, but with allergies, once the person is removed from the allergen, the symptoms go away–sometimes immediately.
The CDC reports that approximately 5 to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu each year and recommends vaccination as the best form of prevention. National health surveys indicate that more than 18% of the people in the U.S. suffer from respiratory allergies. While many over-the-counter medications are effective in relieving symptoms, sometimes it is best to have a physician help you develop a treatment plan.
As for the common cold, the CDC reports that there are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold. It is also one of the most common illnesses, leading to more doctor visits and absences from school and work than any other illness every year. The cold virus usually infects the nose and sinuses first, causing clear, runny mucus and symptoms that can last for up to two weeks. Cold symptoms typically include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Watery eyes
- Mild headache
- Mild body aches
Many people who get colds think that a doctor cannot help them. It is true that there are no drugs that can kill cold viruses, but a doctor’s advice can help you select a treatment plan to relieve symptoms. Also, there are more extreme cases that may require medical attention. The CDC recommends that you see a health care provider if:
- You have a fever higher than 100.4 degrees F.
- You have symptoms that last more than 10 days.
- You have symptoms that are not relieved by over-the-counter medicines.
Furthermore, as with most virus infections, always practice good hygiene and avoid close contact with people to keep from spreading the disease.
Editor’s note: Dr. Alan Smith is WellCare Health Plans, Inc.’s senior medical director of Pharmacy. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.