Archive for January, 2013

Winter Resp

The winter respiratory, cold and flu season is upon us. I have seen quite a spike in visits to urgent care by people suffering from coughs, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throats and generalized achiness.

I believe that people, now more than ever, realize that there is no cure for the common upper-respiratory infection, also known as URI or head and chest cold.

I am sympathetic to anyone who feels ill, and I understand the desire to feel well as soon as possible, but there just is no quick fix to the common upper-respiratory infections, including bronchitis.

Unless one’s symptoms last longer than expected, as I will describe below, antibiotics will do no good and may even cause unwanted side effects and help create germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Here are some situations in which someone with upper-respiratory symptoms should be seen by a doctor:

– You have a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

– You have any fever lasting more than three days.

– Your cough is associated with wheezing, chest pain or shortness of breath.

– You are elderly or have a compromised immune system due to chronic disease or chemotherapy.

– You have vomiting for more than one day and cannot keep down any liquids, or you have profuse diarrhea.

– You are basically well, except that you have a cough for two to three weeks.

– Your sinus congestion with green mucus doesn’t improve after seven to 10 days.

Most coughs, even with yellow or green mucus, are considered bronchitis and are caused by viruses that cannot be cured with antibiotics. A recent large study concluded that bronchitis can last as long as 3 weeks. If your cough lasts longer, you should see a doctor.

Another reason to see a doctor is if you have a cough associated with fever, shortness of breath and feeling as if you’ve been run over by a Mack truck — you might have pneumonia or influenza. Treatment is available for many who have these illnesses.

Regarding sinusitis: Almost all sinus infections, even with green mucus production, begin as a common viral infection and will improve without antibiotics. If symptoms last more than seven to 10 days, then an antibiotic may be indicated.

When you do see your doctor, let him or her evaluate you by listening to what you have to say, examining you and then determining what type of treatment is necessary to make you feel better.

PS: It’s not too late for the flu shot. Influenza cases are just beginning in our area, and as is happening in other parts of the country, this disease may spread among us quickly. Better safe than sorry.

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As we begin a new year, I’d like to share with you a selection of highlights from some of my columns this past year:

Antibiotics:Antibiotics are useful for bacterial infections only, and not for viral infections, such as the common cold, bronchitis and sore throats.

Strokes:If you are having any symptoms that you think might be caused by a stroke, do not hesitate — seek help immediately from the nearest emergency room.

Insomnia:Remedies for sleep problems include lifestyle and behavioral therapies, alternative medicine and prescription medication.

Sleep apnea:This condition needs to be treated, as it leads to a greater risk of heart attacks.

Depression:This is a true medical illness treated with therapy or medication, sometimes in combination.

Asthma:Although it can be deadly, asthma is easily treated with proper medication and close follow-up with a doctor.

Sun exposure:Take the harmful effects of the sun seriously and use sunscreen liberally and frequently. Cover up as much as possible when in the sun.

Cholesterol:To help prevent heart attacks and strokes, keep cholesterol at a normal level.

Coffee:On the whole, coffee is much more beneficial than harmful to your health.

Backpacks for students:Lighten them up. Heavy packs cause neck and back problems for kids.

Influenza vaccine:Flu shots are useful to prevent influenza and can be given from fall to spring. It’s still not too late.

Head injuries:Concussions should be taken very seriously, as they can be deadly and can lead to long-term brain disability.

Calling in sick:Staying home when ill not only helps you recover quicker, but also prevents spreading the illness to your co-workers or fellow students.

Stress:Dealing with stress can help prevent poor health.

The full columns and all others I have written can be found here on my blog at https://valleydoctor.wordpress.com.

Have a very healthy and happy new year.

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