Feeling achy? Coughing? Sneezing? Feverish?
Do you, like so many other Americans, have the flu? Or is it a common cold?
Influenza (the flu) and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses and present different symptoms, said Nursing professor Karen Jordan.
She said there are discernible differences between the two illnesses.
While a cold is more of an upper respiratory infection, Jordan said influenza is a more “systemic disorder.”
“You’ll feel it all over your body,” she said.
Telltale symptoms such as fever, chills and headaches are common to flu sufferers, according to a fact sheet from the state health department.
Jordan said making the distinction is important because a cold and the flu should be treated differently.
She said the common cold can generally be treated at home with plenty of rest and fluids.
Other cold treatments suggested by the health department are antihistamines, decongestant and a fever-reducing pain reliever.
The common cold, in most cases, will not cause severe health problems but the health department warns that the flu can lead to severe and sometimes life-threatening complications.
Jordan recommends people who think they have the flu see a healthcare professional.
She recommends urgent care facilities for flu sufferers.
“Clinics are great,” she said, “It’s quick access. There’s physicians and there’s nurse practitioners there and there’s physicians assistants.”
She said people shouldn’t visit the emergency room unless they have to. She warned that waiting rooms could be crowded with others who are contagious or who could be made sick.
“If you’re going there and you think you might have the flu, get a mask,” she said.
Jordan said there’s the potential that emergency room doctors won’t even see those complaining of flu symptoms for several hours.
Jordan said it’s important to be prepared before seeing a healthcare professional.
“Bring your information,” she said, “And if you’re really sick, you need a friend.”
Jordan said those who are so sick they can’t remember when they last ate or last took their temperature should take someone along who can keep track of things for them, and relay information to nurses and doctors.
Everyone should prepare for a visit to a healthcare facility before they go, she said.
“Document your signs and symptoms,” Jordan said, “Document what your allergies are — they’re going to ask you that. List what kinds of medicines you take. They’re going to want to know when you ate last and all of your chronic illnesses.
“They’re going to ask you all of that before they assess you.
“So, if you’re so sick and tired that you can’t think straight, you need to keep that stuff together. I recommend that people keep all that [information] in their wallet.”
Jordan said what one does after a doctor’s visit is important too. She said to read discharge instructions and to keep them handy.
“It will tell you when to see the doctor next if this [treatment] doesn’t work,” she said. “That is a critical thing to know that a lot of people don’t think about.”
Jordan said people who have the flu are contagious before symptoms begin to appear.
This makes it important to practice prevention and good habits all the time and not just when feeling ill.
“You should wash your hands all the time,” she said. “You should not cough and sneeze in your hand. Keep your hands off your nose and keep your hands away from your eyes. Colds and viruses are spread by contact.
“Get the flu shot,” she said. “Stay away from sick people and if you think you’re sick, stay away from well people.
“Do what’s best for the community and stay home,” she said. “But first,” she said, “practice good health.”
Jordan said people can keep their immune systems strong year round with a good diet, exercise, water and rest.
“Stay healthy,” she said. “If you are healthy to begin with, you aren’t going to catch anything.
“If you get sick, get diagnosed early, treat it fast and get back on your feet.
“Don’t stay sick.”
The state health department’s “Cold Vs. Flu” fact sheet is available at www.ok.gov.
Health expert says it’s not too late for flu shot
Flu numbers for Oklahoma are at an all-time high for the season with 1,789 hospitalizations and 82 deaths since Sept. 28, according to the Oklahoma State Health Department.
Jamie Dukes, Oklahoma State Health Department public information officer, said students can take some easy steps to prevent the flu.
Dukes recommends getting a flu shot and said they are still available. She said because flu season goes all the way through April, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The shot can help prevent or lessen the severity of symptoms if students happen to contract the flu.
“It does protect against four different strains of the flu,” she said. “Even if you do happen to still go ahead and get the flu from one of the other strains, it does help lessen some of those symptoms and it protects against the four other strains.”
In addition to personal physicians, a few Oklahoma City locations offering shots are:
• Oklahoma City-County Health Department:
2149 SW 59th St., Suite 104, 405-427-8651. Call for more information. Shots are $25. Health Choice insurance accepted for flu vaccinations. Receipts will be provided for clients to submit claims to other insurance groups.
• Concentra Urgent Care:
1500 W I-240 Service Rd., Ste. A-14, 405-632-1002. Open 7 a.m.to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
• Chris Express Drug:
851 SW 119th St., 405-735-3950.
—9000 S May Ave.; 405-691-1148.
—9001 S Western Ave.; 405-691-6620.
—2100 SW 119th St, 405-691-1041.
—900 SW 44th St., 405-682-1651. Open 24 hours.
— 800 SW 44th St., 405-632-4964.
—9011 S Pennsylvania Ave., 405-692-1882. Open 24 hours.
—6000 S Pennsylvania Ave., 405-681-1419.
—2835 SW 29th St., 405-631-9294.
—1640 SW 119th St., 405-692-3432.
—3401 S Meridian Ave., 405-681-8118.
• Walmart Neighborhood Market:
—1500 SW 59th St., 405-684-9764.
—911 SW 104th St., 405-692-3866.
—4420 S Western Ave., 405-632-3742.
—100 E I-240 Service Rd., 405-631-2207.
To find more locations offering flu shots, visit http://flushot.healthmap.org.
Prices will vary. Call ahead for hours of operation.