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Cold vs Flu

It’s that time of year when “it’s going around”. What is “it” you ask………could be a simple cold or the seasonal flu. Many patients have trouble determining the two apart. Often it’s not as simple as the medical journals will try to make it out to be, but here are some tips to tell if the symptoms you are suffering are the common cold vs the seasonal flu.

If I get the flu, how long am I contagious? Most people are usually contagious 24 hours before and up to 5 days after symptom onset. It’s important that you stay home from work, school or other social gatherings if you develop flu-like symptoms for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided. If you live with others that are immunocompromised make sure they contact their doctor as soon as possible to evaluate if they are a candidate for post-exposure prophylaxis.

Once I get vaccinated for the seasonal flu, how long will it protect me? The seasonal flu shot generally protects most people against the specific flu strains for 6-8 months. It’s important to note that the strains of the flu included in the vaccination vary from year to year, so if a new strain appears suddenly during the flu season, you may not have immunity towards it.

How do I treat my Flu symptoms?

Treatment of the flu virus mainly consists of supportive care……better known as chicken soup and lots of rest. Fever and aches can be relieved with the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen short term. Coughing can be relieved with over the counter cough remedies, but be sure to consult your Pharmacist to ensure there are no drug interactions with your current medication regimen. There are some cases where patients that have risk factors or are immunocompromised in which post-exposure prophylaxis may be appropriate. However, your best bet is prevention with yearly vaccination.

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