Cold, Flu, & COVID19

What is the Common Cold?

The common cold is true to its name: In the United States, there are millions of cold cases every year.1 It’s the primary reason kids stay home from school and adults miss work.

 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child has about 8 to ten colds in the first several years of her life.

 

The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, which quickly spread through close contact and in the air from coughs and sneezes. According to the CDC, rhinovirus is the most common type of virus that causes colds.

 

For most people, this viral illness only causes minor discomfort and just a little bit of downtime since most colds clear up within 7 to ten days. However, colds can sometimes lead to other illnesses, called “secondary infections.” The most common of these are bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infection, and ear infection. Small children are especially prone to ear infections after having a cold.

Cold Symptoms

Most people recognize signs of a cold. Most colds will typically begin with a sore throat and runny nose. And in general, cold symptoms tend to happen in stages – at the beginning, middle, and end of your cold.

 

Beginning/Early Stage – 1 to 3 Days

Some early warning signs of slowing down and rest include:

  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Mild achiness

Middle Stage – 4 to 7 Days

This is usually the peak of your cold, and you’ll likely experience:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion or running nose
  • Coughing
  • A mild fever in children (101° F – 102° F)
  • Mild achiness
  • Tiredness/fatigue

 

 

 

End-Stage – 8 to 10 Days

Most colds will wind down with a few remaining symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Tiredness/fatigue

 

If your cold lasts longer than ten days or your symptoms have worsened by the end stage of your cold, see your primary care provider or visit Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care. This might be a sign that you have developed a secondary infection that may require treatment with prescription medication.

 

Diagnosing a Cold

Colds are generally diagnosed by observing symptoms. Tests to identify the virus are not necessary.

 

Treating a Cold

Because colds are viral illnesses, they cannot be treated with antibiotics. There are several things, though, that can help relieve symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.
  • Use a saline spray or a nasal rinse.
  • For a sore throat, gargle warm salt water.
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer / humidifier.
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help ease aches and reduce fever.

 

Before starting a new medication, consult your healthcare provider to determine if taking these medications are appropriate for you.

 

Preventing a Cold

Because colds are so common, it’s nearly impossible to prevent contracting a cold some time in your life. But there are some steps you can take to protect yourself during the peak of cold and flu season:

  • Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes – places where germs can enter your body.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands as often as possible, especially if you touch shared surfaces (e.g., door handles) in high-traffic areas.

 

And finally, if you or your children are sick with a cold, there are measures you can take to help prevent the spread of illness:

  • Stay home from work or keep your child out of school during the peak of the cold.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw it away immediately afterward. Wash your hands after you’ve tossed your tissue.
  • Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow if you don’t have a tissue handy.
  • Wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

 

Differences Between a Cold and the Flu

Colds and the flu are both viral illness, and sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart. With our helpful chart below, you can learn about cold and flu symptoms and how they may show up differently for a cold or the flu.

 

You can help prevent the flu and spread the flu by getting a yearly flu shot. Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care stock each season’s flu vaccine every fall to help patients protect themselves as soon as possible.

 

What is the Flu?

Influenza – the flu – is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a flu virus. The human influenza A and B viruses are responsible for the seasonal outbreak of flu in the United States each year. H1N1 is also a more well-known flu strain and is commonly referred to as “swine flu.”

 

When flu is most prevalent, it is called “flu season,” which is usually October through March in the United States. The flu season duration can vary, though, and at times, flu activity can last through May. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu cases generally peak between December and February.

 

While most healthy people recover from the flu within a few weeks, some people are considered at risk of developing severe flu-like pneumonia complications, resulting in hospitalization.

 

These high-risk groups include:

  • Children younger than five years old 
  • Pregnant women 
  • The elderly 
  • Those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems 

 

Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms but can be more severe. They include:

  • Sudden onset of illness 
  • Fever 
  • Chills 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Cough 
  • Body aches 
  • Tiredness/fatigue 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children) 

 

Not everyone who has the flu will have all of the symptoms above, including fever. Some symptoms may last longer than others, such as fatigue.

 

Diagnosing the Flu

When influenza is prevalent, a clinical diagnosis may be made by Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care medical team based on your history, symptoms, and physical exam. There are also tests that the physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner may use to confirm the influenza virus’s presence. The most common ones used are “rapid influenza diagnostics tests,” which can provide results within about 15 minutes.

 

For the test, the inside of your nose or the back of your throat will be swabbed to obtain a sample that will then be tested on-site at Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care.

 

Treating the Flu

The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs. And while you are waiting for the flu to run its course, you can ease your symptoms at home to help you feel more comfortable until you are better.

 

Antiviral Medication

The flu can be treated with certain antiviral drugs that are available only through a prescription. It is recommended that you begin a course of antiviral drugs within two days after experiencing symptoms. So if you think you may have the flu, it’s essential to visit a healthcare professional to begin antiviral medications as soon as possible. These medications can help lessen the severity of symptoms and reduce the time you are sick by two days.

 

Additionally, even if they missed the two-day window, people with a high risk of developing complications from the flu (such as pneumonia or worsening chronic medical conditions) should still take antiviral medications.

 

Note: Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which are used to treat bacterial infections. Like colds, the flu is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics.

 

At-Home Symptom Relief

While your body is working hard to fight the flu, you can give your immune system some support by:

  • Getting plenty of rest. 
  • Drinking lots of fluids to stave off dehydration. 
  • Using a humidifier to ease nasal congestion. 
  • Gargling salt water to soothe your sore throat. 
  • Taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin to reduce achiness or headaches. However, do not give aspirin to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. 

 

Before starting a new medication, consult your healthcare provider to determine if taking these medications are appropriate for you or your child.

 

Recovering from the Flu

It can take people up to three weeks to recover fully from the flu. You might notice that you are more fatigued, or you might have a slight cough for weeks afterward. Take time to recuperate and rest as much as you can.

 

While most people recover completely from the flu in a few weeks, it can also cause secondary illnesses, such as ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia. If you begin to feel worse after three or four days with the flu or notice the onset of new symptoms, such as ear pain or constant coughing, seek medical care right away. These new symptoms could mean that you have developed a secondary infection.

 

Preventing the Flu

One of the best ways to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year, ideally in September or October, before flu season starts.

 

The flu virus is most commonly spread through droplets in the air caused by sick with the flu sneezing or coughing. However, flu viruses can live on surfaces – like doorknobs or cell phones – for up to 24 hours.

 

There are some additional steps you can take to protect yourself during flu season:

  • Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes – places where germs can enter your body. 
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. 
  • Wash your hands as often as possible, especially if you touch shared surfaces (e.g., door handles) in high-traffic areas. 

 

And finally, if you or your children have the flu, you are generally the most contagious in the first three to four days after becoming sick. Here are measures you can take to help prevent spreading your illness to others:

  • Stay home from work or keep your child out of school for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). 
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw it away immediately afterward. Wash your hands after you’ve tossed your tissue. 
  • Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow if you don’t have a tissue handy. 

 

Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care is currently offering two forms of COVID-19 testing:

 

-PCR Test

-Serum Antibody IgG (Blood Test)

 

PCR Test

PCR Test: The average turnaround time for PCR (Nasal Swab) lab results is 3 to 4 days. 

 

Negative: Continue to exercise universal precautions such as social distancing, quarantining, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask or face cloth in public, and other CDC guideline recommendations.

 

Positive: You are recommended to self-quarantine for ten days from the onset of symptoms. After 14 days, you may return to work provided your respiratory symptoms (i.e., cough, runny nose) are improving, AND you are fever-free for 24 hours (without using fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen).

 

Serum Antibody IgG (Blood Test)

Serum Antibody IgG (Blood Test): Please allow a minimum of 7 days to receive your results. 

 

Regardless of your results, it would be best to exercise universal precautions such as social distancing, quarantining, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask or face cloth in public, and other CDC guideline recommendations. Remember, COVID-19 is a new infection, and it is unclear if a positive antibody definitively offers immunity.

 

Disclaimer: 

All COVID test results are sent to the DOH. The DOH may contact you and modify the above recommendations based on their findings. If so, DOH guidance will supersede the above Doral Health & Wellness Urgent Care guidelines.