Fall 2015

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H E A LT H L I N KS 1 8 | PULSE W i n t e r 2 0 1 5 I nfluenza, commonly shorted to "flu," is a conta- gious respiratory illness caused by viruses. Flu ap- pears most frequently in winter and early spring. e flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract. Is it a cold or the flu? Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse than a cold. You feel flu symptoms soon and with greater intensity than colds. e chart below can help you compare symptoms. What if I get the flu? If you get the flu, you may treat the symptoms with over-the-counter drugs until you feel better. Get plen- ty of rest and drink a lot of fluids. Warm, salt water gargles, throat sprays or lozenges help relieve a sore throat. Acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen help relieve aches and pains and reduce fever. When should I call my doctor? Call your doctor if you or your child has a high fever lasting more than three days, breathing diffi- culty, chest pain, fainting, ear pain, vomiting, ab- dominal pain, changes in mental state (confusion, disorientation), symptoms lasting more than 10 days, or sinus pain. If you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, asthma, COPD, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS, call your doctor when the first flu symptoms appear. What about antivirals? Antiviral drugs can decrease the duration of the flu by one or two days. ey are the most effective when given within 48 hours of the onset of illness, so you need to call your doctor as soon as you have flu symptoms. ey are usually given for about five to seven days. Should I take antibiotics? Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria. Chances are that antibiotics will not help your flu symptoms because flu, colds, and most sore throats and bronchitis are cause by virus- es. In addition, taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an antibiotic- resistant infection later. COLD VS. FLU NOT SURE IF YOU HAVE A COMMON HEAD COLD OR THE FLU? HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO DECIPHER YOUR SYMPTOMS. TAMING OF THE FLU SUNIL HEBBAR, MD, A FAMILY HEALTH PRACTITIONER, SHARES SOME FLU-FIGHTING TIPS. Flu symptoms usually appear suddenly and may include fever exceeding 102 degrees, stuffy nose, fatigue, muscle aches, decreased appetite, nausea, chills and sweats, cough, and headache. Pulse asked Sunil Hebbar, MD, a South Bay-area family health practitioner, to share some of his top flu-fighting tips. PULSE: What's the best way to prevent cold and flu? DR. HEBBAR: It's important to practice basic hand hygiene, by washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer, especially if you are in high exposure areas like schools and healthcare settings. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly will also help boost your body's immune system and make you less susceptible to getting infections. And, of course, getting an annual flu shot is one of the best preventive measures you can take. PULSE: What are some common misconceptions that patients have about cold and flu? DR. HEBBAR: One common misconception that is often heard is that the influenza vaccine can make you ill or catch the flu. This has not been scientifically proven. Other common misconceptions usually relate to the role of medications. Treatment for the common cold and flu is mainly supportive, including rest, fluids, and over-the- counter medicines that can provide symptomatic relief. Prescription medications are typically not needed, although antivirals can shorten the duration of the flu if caught early enough.

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