The recent cool weather in Central Florida is wonderful for the holiday spirit and the many local festivities. However, it also signals the arrival of cold and flu season. Both illnesses share symptoms, making diagnosis difficult to decipher.
Dr. Devlin O’Connor, DO, a family medicine physician with Florida Hospital Medical Group, Florida Hospital Centra Care, explains the differences, what to do if you do fall ill, and when to see a doctor.
Bronchitis is inflammation of large air passages in the lungs. Symptoms include a dry cough that develops into a cough with mucus, wheezing, fatigue, chest tightness and a mild fever – often with chills. Acute bronchitis is contagious so washing hands and keeping them away from your face is important for prevention. Flu is a contagious respiratory disease affecting the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms –fever, chills, body aches, cough, and a lack of energy – last for a week or two. Severe cases may require hospitalization and can be fatal. The best prevention is a flu shot. Symptoms can be shortened with an antiviral medicine, which must be taken within 12 to 48 hour from the first signs of symptoms. A physician can determine if a prescription is needed and dispense medication onsite if appropriate. Otitis Media occurs when the ear lining becomes swollen and fluid builds, causing ear pain and infection. Symptoms include: earache (a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain), fever, chills, nasal congestion, a feeling of fullness in the ear, nausea, muffled hearing and ear drainage. Because of complications associated with ear infections, it’s important to see a physician to determine the cause. If it’s bacterial in nature, antibiotics may be needed. Pharyngitis (sore throat) – inflammation of the pharynx – is common and often a symptom of an upper respiratory infection (URI). Sore throats can be caused by viruses and the streptococcus bacteria (also known as strep throat). Since symptoms of both are similar, a doctor will swab the patient’s throat to determine if an antibiotic is necessary. If it’s not strep throat, no antibiotic is needed, since antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Sinusitis occurs when your nasal passages can’t drain due to inflammation. Many symptoms mimic the common cold. Oddly, sinusitis often starts as a cold, but the common cold typically runs its course in about a week. Sinusitis can last weeks or months if left untreated. It’s important to note that viral sinusitis is present with all colds, but a doctor’s diagnosis of sinusitis typically refers to that caused by a bacterial infection. Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), also known as the common cold, is any infection of the head and chest caused by a virus. It can affect you in your nose, throat, sinuses and ears. The infection is spread when viruses are passed to others by sneezing, coughing, or touching something infected by another person.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Temperature reaches 102°F or higher
Worsening sore throat
A cough that gets worse or becomes painful
Blue or gray lips, skin or nails
If you don't have a doctor, you can find a local primary care physician here.
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