The Flu Season is Knocking

The Flu Season is Knocking

Charles Brown No Comments
flu season

Flu Season Is Right Around the Corner

Because a cold and the flu share many of the same symptoms, including runny, stuffy nose, sore throat and coughing it is sometimes hard to know if you really have the flu. However, health experts across the country agree that having a fever and the severity of symptoms you are experiencing are key to differentiating between influenza (flu) and the common cold.

Difference Between The Cold and the Flu

Things that differentiate between a cold and the flu include a fever, body aches and chills, fatigue and sudden onset of symptoms are the key signs that you have the flu. Both colds and the flu are caused by viruses which are common this time of the year when close contact with others and the stress of busy work and holiday schedules make us even more susceptible. But differentiating between a cold and influenza, at least initially, is not always easy because the two can share a number of the same symptoms such as a stuffy nose, a sore throat and a cough.

Colds are typically mild and will usually last only a few days and, in most cases, your body can still function with a cold. When you have the flu within a short time of contracting the virus you will start experiencing a high fever (102 degrees or more), and your whole body aches, and you can’t even get off the couch. At that point you can probably guess correctly that you probably have the flu.

Unlike colds, which tend to have a more gradual onset, the flu usually comes on more suddenly and that one characteristic is the feature in the mnemonic device for identifying the flu — FACTS

  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Sudden onset of tiredness


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and last as late as May, but it usually peaks in January or February.  The best defense against the flu is to get your flu shot early.

The common colds, caused by many different viruses are most often rhinoviruses. The CDC estimates that there are approximately 1 billion cases of the common cold annually in the United States alone. The flu accounts for fewer cases the agency reported that during last year’s flu season there were about 31.8 million influenza-associated illnesses and 14.4 million-related doctor visits during last year’s flu season. Even though there are fewer cases of the flu, it’s still considered a far more severe viral infection.

Complications that can arise from the influenza virus include bacterial pneumonia, a weakened heart muscle, and even the death of people who could be otherwise healthy. The virus is responsible for the hospitalization of over 200,000 people each year.

Last year there were 169 flu-related deaths among children that were reported by the CDC last month. The agency does not keep the same type of statistics on adults, but estimates that there are somewhere around 24,000 deaths are related to the influenza each year.

The common misconception for the treatment of both the common cold and the flu is that antibiotics can fight these viruses, however viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections but, many people still think otherwise. In a national survey of consumers that the foundation released this month, 44% of respondents incorrectly said antibiotics fight the flu and 48% mistakenly believed that flu vaccines “treat” influenza.

There are antiviral medications that can be prescribed by a physician to treat the flu but, they work best if given within 48 hours of when people began to feel ill. The CDC recommends taking “everyday preventative actions” to stop the spread of germs, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; staying home when you are sick and washing your hands with soap and water several times a day and especially after being out in public places like the mall or grocery store where you are exposed to a large number of people.

Even after taking all the everyday precautions many people still get the flu. The CDC reports that the most effective way of preventing the flu in your family is by getting a flu vaccine (either injection or nasal spray) and says the vaccine is key to reducing the risk of flu for everyone.  It has also been said that Vitamin D can assist with not getting the flu.

There are people who are at higher risk of contracting the flu no matter how many precautions that take including:

People who are at high risk of developing more serious complications such as pneumonia if they get the flu

People who have other medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease

Pregnant women

Children 5 and younger and especially those younger than 2

Elderly people 65 years and older

Caregivers and others who live with or care for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications

Receiving the vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting the flu virus by as much as 60%, and although it does not affect every known flu virus out there, it does prevent many of the flu viruses that might be circulating in a given season. In cases where vaccinated people still get the flu, the symptoms may be lesser than they would have been otherwise because the vaccine generates an immune response.

Is it the cold or the flu?

Here are the differences according to health experts:

• Fever. One of the first signs and rare for a cold but, common with the flu virus. Fevers can go up to 102 degrees, especially in children, and can persist three or four days.

• Headache. Colds will rarely cause you to have a headache where they are quite common with the flu.

• Aches and pains. Although you can experience aches and pains with a cold they are usually mild. Aches and pains with the flu are most usually much more severe.

• Fatigue. Again, fatigue and tiredness can occurs with a cold, but the flu will usually start with a period of exhaustion and can last two or three weeks.

• Sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat. These are the most frequent symptoms of a cold but can and most usually will occur with the flu.

• Chest discomfort, cough. Again these symptoms can be present with a cold and the flu but are most often mild to moderate with colds and more severe with flu.

• Get plenty of rest.

• Drink lots of fluids, which can thin mucus and prevent dehydration.

• Over-the-counter medication, such as antihistamines, decongestants and pain and fever reducers, can provide temporary relief from symptoms.

• If you’re feeling very weak, running a high fever (102 degrees or higher), have trouble breathing or symptoms worsen, contact a medical care provider.

The same is true if you suffer from a chronic illness, such as asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure, which makes you more vulnerable to complications.

flu season is here

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Peanut Allergies

Charles Brown No Comments
peanut allergy

Peanut Allergies

There have been many stories in the media the past several years of children becoming ill or even dying at schools and summer camps from peanut related allergies. I understand the cost-effectiveness of peanut butter: it is inexpensive and goes a long way. I have heard parents who do not have children with food allergies complain that the food-sensitive children should bring their own food, and carry on that their child shouldn’t suffer the loss of peanut butter just because another child might get sick and die. I blame ignorance for those comments. If something as casual as peanut butter can remotely cause a fatal injury, it should be eliminated from the menu.

Everyone Has Some Allergies

Almost every one I know suffers from allergies to something. People suffer symptoms ranging from hives to sinus problems.

Having moved to Louisiana in my mid-30’s, I enjoyed all the wonderful food this State has to offer: shrimp, crawfish, oysters, all cooked in every way imaginable. As I grew older, I became less tolerant to certain foods, some of which were causing food allergy-related symptoms, which can be life-threatening.

peanut allergiesOne night my face swelled to twice its size, accompanied by what felt like the burning of my skin, and my eyes swelled to the point of almost being closed. Of course, I initially sought answers online as to what would cause such a horrible onset… was it the bubonic plague come back to modern times? Perhaps ricin poisoning? WebMD can, and does, offer a detailed explanation for every symptom you can imagine. Having a powerful imagination, I was convinced I was to die a slow, lingering, painful and a quite unattractive death. Ultimately, I decided to go to an actual doctor. His diagnosis: no more shellfish for me.

Allergies Can Arise At Any Time

Apparently, allergies can be assumed at any age. In Louisiana, you may as well stop eating if you have a shellfish allergy To add insult to injury, I also soon developed an allergy to nuts. The same symptoms, the same diagnosis, the same changing of the menu of foods I could safely eat.

There is, of course, no cure , but there are preventable measures I take. For one thing, I keep Benadryl on hand at all times. I am also extremely careful when I go out to eat. Cross contamination can be deadly for people suffering food allergies. Fried chicken is great, but was it cooked in the same oil as the shrimp? Is the oil used for frying vegetable oil or peanut oil? On the rare occasions that eat out, I go to restaurants that I trust. I order items not only without shellfish, or that may have touched shellfish, but I avoid any foods that may contain nuts, such as salads, vegetables, desserts.

I do not want anyone to get the impression that it is just a matter of convenience for me to go through the rest of my life being a picky eater. It is a matter of my own safety. WedMD told me so.