“People confuse cold and flu all the time. The difference between the cold and the flu is that with the flu, one usually gets muscle aches, nasal congestion, a cough and a high fever,” said Dr. Amanda Magrini, a Sparks physician with Northern Nevada Medical Group. “When you have a cold, you usually have a runny nose, an irritated throat. A cold won’t hit you as hard as the flu.”
Patients of Dr. Magrini come into her office asking for antibiotics to treat their cold but drugs of that strength are not necessary for the average cold.
“People often take multiple combinations of over-the-counter medication,” said Dr. Magrini. “When you combine things like cough syrup with Tylenol, you could possibly overdose. Everyone needs to be careful and read the labels on the medicine packaging.”
Each flu season is different from the next, with multiple strains of the flu virus changing into a new strain each year. The Centers for Disease Control say the flu vaccine manufacturers estimate that this year, 130 million people will get the flu shot, which will treat the three major strains of the flu.
“Now is the time to get the shot, from now to January,” said Dr. Jeffrey Millman, a Sparks family practice physician. For those on the fence about getting the shot and worried about the possible side effects, area doctors said not to let the risk of any possibilities hinder your decision.
“You should get the flu shot,” said Dr. Magrini. “Some people must get the shot without question; if you’re younger than two years old and older than 65; if you have chronic heart or lung problems or kidney disease and if you’re pregnant.”
For those who are facing flu symptoms, doctors say it is best to wait out the sickness at home, sealing yourself in a room where you cannot get anyone else infected.
“I recommend getting plenty of rest and taking it easy,” said Dr. Magrini. “Drink plenty of fluids and try to use a minimal amount of those cold medicines. If you have something like a sinus infection, use a saline nasal spray or a Neti pot.”
For those who are ill with cold or flu symptoms, Dr. Millman suggests drinking hot fluids, taking vitamin C four times a day and gargling salt water for irritated throats.
“Adults should take 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day and get enough rest, about seven to eight hours every day,” said Dr. Millman. “Take Robitussin DM for cough. If the cold goes into your bronchial tubes, use Vicks VapoRub on your body and take Mucinex -- it will help thin out and loose mucus.”
Dr. Millman also recommends Airborne, a supplement that contains herbal supplements and antioxidants that support the immune system.
“If you’re around those who are exposed, take Airborne with three ounces of water once a day,” said Dr. Millman. “If you’re exposed, take Airborne twice a day.”
Prevention is key for not catching any form of the cold or flu virus.
“The best way to prevent illness is washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizers. Always wash your hands before and after eating and after bathroom use. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and avoid touching your eyes and mouth,” said Dr. Magrini. “The myth that using too much hand sanitizer will kill the good germs on your hands is not true. You can use hand sanitizer as many times as possible. The alcohol in hand sanitizer can be drying so moisturize to keep skin moist and soft.”
Washoe County residents can get a flu shot at local participating pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, the Washoe County Health District, the Community Heath Alliance office in Reno and all the major local hospitals. Fees vary at each location. There are two forms of the flu shot — the traditional flu shot contains a strand of the inactive flu virus that is administrated in a short form in the arm. The nasal-spray flu vaccine is a live but weakened flu virus. The nasal vaccine is approved for two to 45 years in age and for women who are not pregnant.
For more information about flu prevention and treatment, visit www.flu.gov.