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Posts Tagged ‘Colds’

Winter-Cold

The winter “respiratory, cold, and flu” season is upon us. I have seen quite a spike in visits to urgent care with 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 commonly known as “URI” or head and chest cold.

I am sympathetic to anyone who feels ill and I understand one’s desire to feel well as soon as possible, but there just is no quick fix to the common URI including bronchitis and sinusitis.

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 to create germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Here are some reasons why someone with URI symptoms should be seen by a doctor:

– You have a fever of 103 F 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 are basically well except that you have a cough for two to three weeks.

– Your sinus congestion with green nasal mucous doesn’t improve after 7-10 days.

Most all coughs, even with yellow or green mucus, are considered bronchitis and are caused by viruses which cannot be cured with antibiotics.

A recent large study concluded that bronchitis can last up to two or three weeks. If your cough lasts longer than this, you should see your doctor.

Another reason to see your 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” — then you could have either pneumonia or influenza for which treatment is available.

Regarding sinusitis, almost all sinus infections, even with green mucus production, begin as a common virus infection and will improve without antibiotics. If these symptoms last more than 7-10 days, then an antibiotic may be indicated.

When you do see your doctor, let them 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.

P.S. 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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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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calling

It’s getting to be the time of year when respiratory illnesses, such as colds, coughs and the flu, begin to make more of us ill.

I’m frequently asked by patients whether they can return to work or school or resume exercising when feeling sick. I’d like to offer some guidelines to help make such decisions.

I know missing work or school can mean falling behind on one’s workload, but going to work or school while ill can not only prolong an illness, but also spread it to others.

It seems employers and educators are becoming more tolerant of excused absences due to illness. They realize that not only will workers or students who are sick be less productive, but they may cause others to become ill and affect the entire office or classroom.

In fact, it has been reported that more than two-thirds of all health-related productivity losses are the result of sick employees who show up and perform poorly — not those who miss work to recover.

As a rule, stay home when ill:

– If you have a fever (100 degrees or higher).

– If you experience frequent coughing or sneezing.

– If you are taking medication that may make you dizzy, lightheaded or unable to concentrate.

– If you have vomiting or diarrhea.

Consider returning to work or school when the above symptoms have cleared up.

Meanwhile, you can take several precautions — whether at home, at work or at school — to help keep from spreading illness to others.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with a hand sanitizer, and keep your hands away from your face.

Cover your face when sneezing or coughing, using tissue paper or the sleeve on your arm.

Try to stay several feet from face-to-face contact with those around you.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping distance between those who are sick and others who are not. Germs are spread through respiratory droplets from our noses and mouths. In normal conversation and breathing, those droplets from the mouth may extend out one or two feet from you, but a sneeze or cough can spread them an estimated six to eight feet.

Those who are healthy need to act defensively when in the presence of someone who is showing symptoms of an illness.

Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a common cold and no fever. Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

If you do choose to exercise when you’re sick, reduce the intensity and length of your workout. Exercising at your normal intensity when you have more than a simple cold puts you at risk for a more serious illness.

Let your body be your guide. If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a break. Scaling back or taking a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better.

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According to a recent public health alert, California is experiencing an epidemic of pertussis. Santa Cruz County has had 20 known cases and probably many more that have not been reported or have yet to be diagnosed.

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious infection of the lower respiratory tract, involving the lungs. It usually manifests as a mild persistent cough but can advance to a severe cough. Often in children, this cough is followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop” — thus the common name whooping cough.

Pertussis is caused by a bacteria germ, not a virus. It is passed from an infected person who sneezes or coughs and therefore spreads by infected tiny droplets into the lungs of anyone who might be nearby. Once in the lungs, the germs can cause an infection, creating inflammation and a narrowing of the lungs’ breathing tubes. This produces the cough and the characteristic whooping sound.

Infants are particularly vulnerable, because they are not fully immune to whooping cough until they’ve received at least three immunization shots. This leaves babies 6 months and younger at greatest risk of catching the infection. Also, the pertussis vaccine one receives as a child wears off in five to 10 years, leaving most teenagers and adults susceptible to the infection during an outbreak.

The diagnosis of pertussis is often delayed or missed in infants, because early symptoms are often mild and the serious cough might not begin until days or even weeks later. A severe infection in infants can be fatal, although thankfully this is rare. Five infant deaths have been reported in California since the beginning of the year.

One must consider pertussis for anyone with a cough that lasts more than two weeks, especially when the cough is worse at night and the patient has prolonged coughing spells but generally feels quite well otherwise.

The vaccine for pertussis comes combined with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines that are routinely given to children in their first years of life and to adults every 10 years. Talk to your doctor about it.

Besides infants, those who especially need the vaccine’s protection are pregnant women in their third trimester, because they will soon have contact with their unprotected infants. Mothers have been found to be the greatest source of transmitting whooping cough germs to newborns.

Infants can also be protected by vaccinating those people who have close contact with them. This “family” protection has been highly successful with susceptible infants.

Tests are available to diagnose pertussis. The decision whether to test should be left to a doctor, however, as in most cases, the diagnosis can be made on symptoms alone.

Antibiotics can be effective, especially when given soon after symptoms begin. After several weeks of symptoms, they are much less effective. Family members can also be prescribed preventative antibiotics.

Remember that pertussis is caused by bacteria and can usually be treated with an antibiotic, but if you just have a bad cough because of bronchitis, which is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective. Your doctor will be able to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment.

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We are in the flu season. Influenza, often called the flu, is a virus affecting the respiratory tract, causing illnesses ranging from symptoms of a severe cold to life-threatening infections such as pneumonia.

It often affects up to 10 percent of the entire population and is associated with an average of 36,000 deaths a year throughout the United States. Most deaths occur in the very old or the very young, or in those with chronic illnesses.

Influenza is transmitted by direct and indirect contact via respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or just shaking hands. The incubation period is several days, and contagiousness can last as long as a week after the symptoms begin.

The best way to limit its spread is by frequent hand-washing with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds and by limiting close face-to-face contact with others when symptoms are present.

It is very important to know the difference between the common winter cold and influenza. As opposed to a common cold, influenza has these distinguishing characteristics:

  • Very sudden onset
  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Sore throat

At the onset of influenza symptoms, people often say they feel as if they had been “run over by a truck.”

The treatment for influenza is mostly symptomatic care: plenty of rest, Tylenol or Advil (ibuprofen) for fever and aches, and maintaining adequate liquid intake. There are drugs available from a doctor which, if taken within the first 48 hours of influenza symptoms, may shorten the course of the illness by a day or two. Those are recommended for elderly or chronically ill patients with influenza symptoms.

Being immunized with a flu shot or the inhaled FluMist vaccine significantly lessens one’s chance of getting the flu. But, as with any treatment, there is no guarantee of 100 percent success. One can still get a bad viral upper respiratory infection during the winter months, even after the flu vaccine, but one should be protected from the far more serious influenza.
Most people who receive the flu shot have no bad reaction to it. Some people might experience redness and swelling at the injection site lasting a few days. One cannot get the flu from a flu shot, because it is made from a deactivated, dead virus. The benefit of the flu shot far outweighs the minimal risks.

Although the ideal time for a flu shot is from mid-October through November, the flu season can extend through May. As of this writing, the County Health Department reports very little influenza activity, but if history repeats itself, it could arrive soon.

Watch for flu shot clinics.

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