Most of us get sick at least once a year. We usually have no clue where it came from. We don’t know how to avoid getting it. We don’t know what kind of sickness it is or how to treat it. I am sick almost every year after all the trade shows we do. This year, I figured it was time to get to the bottom of it and share what I found out.
NOTE: This article is designed to be a helpful guide, but you should see your doctor to be sure.
What do I have?
What it is: A cold refers to an upper respiratory tract virus affecting the nose, throat and lungs and lasts about a week. This may lead to a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics if it persists – e.g., excessive green/yellow mucus, onset of fever after the first few days of being sick, difficulty breathing. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, stuffy/runny nose.
How to tell: gradual onset of symptoms. Fever, chills, and headache usually absent
Treatment: Decongestants, pain relievers, lozenges, etc. Antibiotics may be used if a bacterial infection takes over.
What it is: The flu is a respiratory illness caused by an influenza virus. There are many strains of influenza viruses, which mutate and change on a regular basis. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and muscle aches, weakness, and fatigue.
How to tell: abrupt onset of symptoms, usually with fever, aches, chills, headache
Treatment: There is no specific medicine for treating viruses. Decongestants, pain relievers, lozenges, nasal sprays, etc. can be used to treat symptoms. Antibiotics will NOT help as they target bacteria not viruses. There a few antiviral drugs currently approved for the flu, but they do not prevent nor cure the flu and must be taken with 2 days of symptoms. They may lessen symptoms and shorten the flu by one day, and the side effects can be similar to the flu. Cannot be taken by anyone with kidney or liver dysfunction.
What it is: Caused by viruses such as Norovirus, rotavirus, herpes simplex, and hepatitis, it can cause inflammation of the stomach or intestines resulting in diarrhea and vomiting on top of regular flu symptoms.
How to tell: abrupt onset of symptoms, usually accompanied with fever, aches, chills, headache
Treatment: There is no specific medicine to treat norovirus or rotavirus illness.
Gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea)
What it is: Caused by bacteria such as E Coli, salmonella, or shigella. In rare cases, it can also come from heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury found in drinking water and cheap silver jewelry. Some medications such as antibiotics, antacids, laxative, and chemotherapy drugs may also lead to gastroenteritis. Symptoms include cramping and stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
How to tell: fever, chills, and headache usually absent
Treatment: antibiotics, etc