The Flu or Not the Flu, That is the Question

Is it the flu?In winter and after the busy holiday season, our immune systems can take a punch. From seeing friends and family and sharing gifts, meals and germs to traveling far and wide, we can pick up seasonal illnesses such as the flu or other common cold viruses. The flu is currently widespread through the U.S., according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can be difficult for patients to define symptoms when they’re not feeling well. While it’s common to assume you are sick with the flu, there are many other common cold conditions it could be. This begs the question if it’s not the flu, what is it?

Since some flu symptoms mimic that of the common cold or other upper respiratory illness, it’s easy to see why patients need clarity from their healthcare providers. However, if a cold is serious enough to seek a medical diagnosis, then more than likely it is the flu.

Flu vs Common Cold
Understanding the difference between these illnesses and recommended treatment options is important. The most recognizable distinction between influenza and other common colds is that it comes on more acutely and includes symptoms like:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Common cold conditions typically come with more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat

Early diagnosis is important for the flu, especially for high risk groups including infants, children and the elderly. If left untreated, the flu can lead to further complications such as pneumonia. A flu diagnosis is confirmed through a swab test of a patient’s nose or throat depending on the availability and accuracy of rapid testing. Other common cold conditions receive a clinical diagnosis completed without a formalized test after a physician examines a patient. Healthcare providers in the midst of a flu outbreak may forgo testing every patient and move forward with immediate treatment.

The flu is commonly treated by Tamiflu and other anti-viral drugs when diagnosed early enough. Common cold sufferers manage symptoms with rest, fluids and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Whether you have the flu or a common cold virus, healthcare providers typically recommend:

  • Sleep – Rest is important for recovery.
  • Steam – Clear sinuses with hot tea, soup or a shower to help reduce congestion.
  • Drinking lots of fluids – Fevers and viral infections can be dehydrating, especially for younger and older patients.
  • OTC Cold Medications – These medications treat a variety of symptoms including congestion, cough and fever reduction.

Some patients go to the doctor with cold and flu symptoms and expect to be sent home with antibiotics. Cold conditions are more often caused by viruses, so antibiotics are unnecessary.

In addition to products and supplies used to diagnose and treat patients during cold and flu season, Concordance also provides products needed to help keep healthcare environments clean including:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Isolation gowns
  • Surgical ear loop masks
  • Disinfectant wipes and spray

For patients exhibiting cold and flu symptoms, it’s important to protect other’s exposure to your symptoms. When patients with these conditions do have to go out, such as to visit a physician, it’s important to keep from spreading the virus through the use of face masks especially when visiting hospitals and other healthcare environments. Hand hygiene is also essential to keep from spreading germs. Healthcare providers and patients should be sure to disinfect shared surfaces.

During this time of year, Concordance is prepared with an experienced team and access to thousands of suppliers, to provide the supplies you need to fight the flu.


*This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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