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What is the flu and how is it different from the common cold?

Ask The Doctor- Edward (Ellie) Bennett, MD  

Q- WHAT IS THE FLU AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE COMMON COLD?

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Early symptoms are similar so it's easy to mistake the flu for other ailments.

Q- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE FLU?

  • High Fever
  • Headaches and chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry cough

And the general feeling of being run over by a truck!

(You don't need to experience all these symptoms to have the flu. If you have one or two, it's recommended that you see your doctor.)

THE BEST WAY TO AVOID THE FLU IS BY GETTING A FLU SHOT EVERY YEAR!!

Q- WHO SHOULD BE VACCINATED? Young children (who are usually the first to carry home the virus), pregnant women, adults over 50 and people with specific health problems are at risk for serious complications. Anyone in close contact with young children (i.e. therapists and teachers) should also receive an annual flu shot. In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated.

Q- IS IT TOO LATE TO BE VACCINATED?

No. Flu season reaches its peak between late December and mid April. Because next year's vaccine is created from last year's killed/ inactivated flu, a new flu shot is needed each year.

Q- IF SOMEONE WASN'T VACCINATED, WILL ANTIBIOTICS HELP?

If you feel like you have the flu speak to your Doctor immediately. Antivirals if taken 12 - 48 hours after the onset, MAY shorten the duration of the flu. Antibiotics are medicines that kill bacteria and are, therefore, only useful for treating bacterial infections. They should NOT be used to treat the influenza virus.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

GET YOUR FLU SHOT BEFORE YOU GET THE FLU!


Dr. Bennett, who is board certified in Internal Medicine, also specializes in adult and pediatric Emergency Medicine. He is available in his Kew Gardens Hills office most evenings and weekends and can be reached at 646-623-3350.

Send your questions to askdoctorb@yahoo.com



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