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Sniffle Detective: 5 Ways to Tell Colds from Allergies

With spring upon us many will be suffering with allergies. But you may also be suffering from a spring cold.  Seasonal allergies and colds share some common symptoms, so it may be hard to tell the two apart.  Both conditions typically involve sneezing, a runny nose and congestion. There are some differences, though. Additionally, colds usually include coughing and a sore throat, but these symptoms can also occur in people with hay fever who have post-nasal drip. Itchy eyes are common for seasonal allergies, but rare for colds.

Colds and seasonal allergies seem very similar in many ways.  It’s the duration [length] and chronicity [frequency] of symptoms that might help tell the difference. It’s not unusual for parents and even doctors to confuse cold and seasonal allergy symptoms. Young children frequently get colds, and their parents may not always think of seasonal allergies as the reason for kids’ constantly drippy noses. Seasonal allergies may first show up in a child at around ages 4 to 6, but they can also begin at any age after that. And genetics play a role: People with one parent who has any type of allergy have a 1 in 3 chance of developing an allergy.  When both parents have allergies, their children have a 7 in 10 chance of developing allergies, too.

Here are five signs to look for to determine whether symptoms are due to seasonal allergies or a cold.

Consider the time of year.  Colds tend to occur in the winter, and they often take several days to show up after exposure to a virus. With seasonal allergies, the onset of symptoms — the sneezing, stuffy nose and itchy eyes — occur immediately after exposure to pollens in spring, summer or fall. If symptoms tend to show up the same time every year, it may well be seasonal allergies rather than a cold.

Duration of symptoms matters.  The symptoms of a cold typically last three to 14 days, but allergy symptoms last longer, usually for weeks, as long as the person is exposed to pollen, Rachid said.

Color of nasal discharge offers clues.  When she sees a patient with green or yellow mucus, Rachid said, she tends to think the person has a cold or infection. Seasonal allergies usually produce clear nasal secretions, she said, although sinus infections may confuse the picture. Sometimes allergy sufferers develop sinus infections, which can result in yellow-colored nasal discharge.

Any temperature or muscle aches?  Despite the name “hay fever,” seasonal allergies don’t usually cause fever or body aches, whereas people with a cold often have these symptoms.

Notice “the allergic salute.”   Parents may notice children frequently pushing their noses up with the palms of their hands to wipe or relieve itchiness — this could be a telltale sign of seasonal allergies. When trying to determine if a child’s symptoms are due to a cold or seasonal allergies,  ask about the allergic salute. You can also observes the skin on the child’s nose, since the “salute,” when done frequently, tends to cause a small crease at the bridge.

Anyone with a cold may do the allergic salute, but children with allergies tend to do this a lot. It means something is bothering them, and could indicate their allergies are getting worse.

 

 

 

 

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Colds vs. Flus

When you wake up sneezing, coughing, and have that achy, feverish, can’t move a muscle feeling, how do you know whether you have cold symptoms or the flu?

It’s important to know the difference between flu and cold symptoms. A cold is a milder respiratory illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.

What are common cold symptoms?

Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, which usually goes away after a day or two. Nasal symptoms, runny nose, and congestion follow, along with a cough by the fourth and fifth days. Fever is uncommon in adults, but a slight fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.

With cold symptoms, the nose teems with watery nasal secretions for the first few days. Later, these become thicker and darker. Dark mucus is natural and does not usually mean you have developed a bacterial infection, such as a sinus infection.

Several hundred different viruses may cause your cold symptoms.

How long do cold symptoms last?

Cold symptoms usually last for about a week. During the first three days that you have cold symptoms, you are contagious. This means you can pass the cold to others, so stay home and get some much-needed rest.

If cold symptoms do not seem to be improving after a week, you may have a bacterial infection, which means you may need antibiotics.

Sometimes you may mistake cold symptoms for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or a sinus infection. If cold symptoms begin quickly and are improving after a week, then it is usually a cold, not allergy. If your cold symptoms do not seem to be getting better after a week, check with your doctor to see if you have developed an allergy or sinusitis.

What are common flu symptoms?

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough. Swine flu in particular is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, particularly in the young, elderly, or people with lung or heart problems. If you notice shortness of breath, let your doctor know. Another common sign of pneumonia is fever that comes back after having been gone for a day or two.

Just like cold viruses, flu viruses enter your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth. Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you could be infecting yourself with a virus, which makes it very important to keep hands germ-free with frequent washing to prevent both flu and cold symptoms.

Is it flu or cold symptoms?

How do you know if you have flu or cold symptoms? Take your temperature, say many experts. Flu symptoms often mimic cold symptoms with nasal congestion, cough, aches, and malaise. But a common cold rarely has symptoms of fever above 101 degrees. With flu symptoms, you will probably have a fever initially with the flu virus and you will feel miserable. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu. This table can help determine if you have cold or flu symptoms.

Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Sometimes, usually mild Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Occasionally Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue,  Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe
Complication Sinus congestion; middle ear infection Sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia; can be life-threatening
Prevention Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone with a cold Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone who has flu symptoms; get the annual flu vaccine
Treatment Decongestants; pain reliever/fever reducer medicines Decongestants, pain relievers, or fever reducers are available over the counter; over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to young children; prescription antiviral drugs for flu may be given in some cases; call your doctor for more information about treatment.

Usually, the time of year will give you some sense of what you’re dealing with. The standard flu season runs from fall to spring of the next year.

When do I call the doctor with flu or cold symptoms?

If you already have flu or cold symptoms, it’s important to call your doctor if you also have any of the following severe symptoms:

  • Persistent fever: A fever lasting more than three days can be a sign of another bacterial infection that should be treated.
  • Painful swallowing: Although a sore throat from a cold or flu can cause mild discomfort, severe pain could mean strep throat, which requires treatment by a doctor.
  • Persistent coughing: When a cough doesn’t go away after two or three weeks, it could be bronchitis, which may need an antibiotic. Postnasal drip or sinusitis can also result in a persistent cough. In addition, asthma is another cause of persistent coughing.
  • Persistent congestion and headaches: When colds and allergies cause congestion and blockage of sinus passages, they can lead to a sinus infection (sinusitis). If you have pain around the eyes and face with thick nasal discharge after a week, you may have a bacterial infection and possibly need an antibiotic. Most sinus infections, however, do not need an antibiotic.

In some cases, you may need to get emergency medical attention right away. In adults, signs of a crisis include:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Persistent vomiting

In children, additional signs of an emergency are:

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Lethargy and failure to interact normally
  • Extreme irritability or distress
  • Symptoms that were improving and then suddenly worsen
  • Fever with a rash

Can I prevent flu or cold symptoms?

The most important prevention measure for preventing colds and flu is frequent hand washing. Hand washing by rubbing the hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds helps to slough germs off the skin.

In addition to hand washing to prevent flu or cold symptoms, you can also get a flu vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza. Seasonal flu activity in the United States generally peaks between late December and early March. Within two weeks of getting a flu vaccine, antibodies develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Children receiving the vaccine for the first time need two doses delivered one month apart.

Antiviral medicine may also help prevent flu if you have been exposed to someone with flu symptoms.

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It’s That Time of Year Again: Prepping for Cold and Flu Season

It’s That Time of Year Again: Prepping for Cold and Flu Season

nutrition

What could be more beneficial to you in the advent of the Common Cold/Flu  season than knowledge on how to treat and prevent them from occurring in the first place?  Except maybe some of JJ’s chicken soup (which is pretty darn good, by the way….I make it with rice and a ton of celery and carrots)?  Well, I can’t send all the soup, so this will have to suffice.  Take this info along with you as the weather cools and you’re spending more time camping and hiking in the cold weather.

 

The Cold Hard Facts on the Common Cold

The Common Cold is defined as an acute infection of any and all parts of the respiratory tract from the nasal mucosa to the nasal sinuses, throat, larynx, trachea, and bronchi. Most people come down with a cold at least once per year.  School-aged children are most susceptible due to the facts that their immune system is not as highly developed as and adults, and that they are in close proximity to a larger “pool” of sick little minnows.  Perhaps that is where the word “school” takes its true meaning!  Cigarette smokers also have a higher risk and longer recovery time for the cold.

In terms of etiology, more than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold.  Some examples are rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses.  For this reason (size and diversity of the viral origin) it is very difficult to identify the exact cause of the organism.  The colds are never really cured; for the most part, the symptoms are addressed and an attempt is made to ameliorate the sufferer’s condition.  The common cold causes more lost work time and absence from school than any other ailment.

On average, people in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion each year on nonprescription medicines and treatments for the common cold and its symptoms.The symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • the swelling of nasal mucosa, increased mucus production
  • cough
  • swelling of the throat lining
  • sinus pressure with or without watery eyes
  • lethargy
  • loss of sleep.

The symptoms can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.  Should the cold run longer than 10 days, be accompanied by fever, or have systemic conditions, this may be an indication that something more serious is underlying.  In this case, contact your physician for an appointment immediately.

How to Get Better

The offending organism/virus may be present in nasal secretions for 1 week or even longer past the initial onset of the signs and symptoms.  It is important for this reason alone to dispose of all Kleenex and tissue paper used to expel mucous, and to control handkerchiefs so they have no contact with anyone else.  As mentioned earlier, patients treat the symptoms and suffer through the cold until it has run its course.  There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to the cold-afflicted person.

Analgesics: painkillers for aches, pains, and muscular soreness; some are also fever-reducers; these include Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Aspirin, and Ibuprofen (Motrin).  Follow the instructions on the label. Generally they should be taken with food and water.

Antihistamines: these decrease the nasal secretions of mucous by blocking the actions of histamine. One example is Chlorpheniramine.

Cough Medicines: these fall into two general categories – 1. Expectorants: these increase the amount of phlegm and mucous production to make the cough more productive; the secretions gradually remove the organism. An example is Guaifenisin. 2. Antitussives: these reduce the coughing. Dextromethorphan is an example.

Decongestants: they shrink the blood vessels of the nasal passages and help to relieve edema (swelling) and the congestion.  An example is Pseudeoephedrine hydrochloride (Sudafed), of which now you have to show your driver’s license to buy it OTC: government approval to insure you’re not using it to make Methamphetamines.

There are also some natural aids that can help in your supportive care and may aid in your recovery.  Vitamin C is recommended by Dr. Balch to fight cold viruses, in amounts ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 mg daily.Although citrus fruits and juices are rich in Vitamin C, you’ll have to find a reliable supplement to provide the amounts listed in the above recommendation.

Eucalyyptus oil can be found in your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart and in your health food stores.  The oil is useful in combating congestion.  Place 5 drops in your bath, or 6 drops per cup of boiling water as a steam inhalant to loosen the congestion.  Read any instructions on the label from the manufacturer.

Tea Tree oil can also be found in the aforementioned sources.  The oil is helpful with sore throats.  Place 3-6 drops in warm water and gargle with it up to 3 times per day, and remember: do not drink it.  Spit it out.  Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label, as different brands have different concentrations.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is (as usual) the all-around wonder herb.  Garlic is effective in preventing the common cold, reducing recovery time, and reducing symptom duration. The herb is available in capsule or tablet form  in the aforementioned establishments, and as a solid or aqueous extract in your health food concerns.  Daily dosage is 4 grams of fresh garlic per day.  A clove can be consumed 1-2 times per day, or up to 8 mg essential oil.

Influenza

Influenza is another virus to worry about during the colder months. It has plagued man throughout the ages and is only now in the “infancy stages” of being understood, especially in function.  The disease (seasonal) is described as being an acute, contagious, respiratory infection with fever, headache, and cough, originating with a virus (influenza A, in 65% of cases, or influenza B, in 35% of cases). Incubation is usually 1-3 days with the illness running its course in about a week. There are more than 400 types of viruses.  Current antiviral medications include amantadine and rimantadine.

Over-the-counter medications are for treatment of symptoms while the body is fighting the infection and recovering.  Such medications are guaifenisin (an expectorant),acetaminophen (fever and pain), and robitussin (cough), among others.  We are all undoubtedly familiar with them.  So how do viruses work?  What are they?  Let us explore some basics to better understand them.

Treating the Influenza Virus

Influenza has plagued man throughout the ages and is only now in the “infancy stages” of being understood, especially in function.  The disease (seasonal) is described as being an acute, contagious, respiratory infection with fever, headache, and cough, originating with a virus (influenza A, in 65% of cases, or influenza B, in 35% of cases). Incubation is usually 1-3 days with the illness running its course in about a week.  Current antiviral medications include amantadine and rimantadine.

Over-the-counter medications are for treatment of symptoms while the body is fighting the infection and recovering.  Such medications are guaifenisin (an expectorant),acetaminophen (fever and pain), and robitussin (cough), among others.  We are all undoubtedly familiar with them.  So how do viruses work?  What are they?  Let us explore some basics to better understand them.

There are more than 400 types of viruses.  A virus is basically a pathogen with a protein coating containing nucleic acids.  They are broken down and classified by several methods pertaining to their physiology:  1.  Genome (RNA or DNA), 2. Host/target (bacteria, plant, or animal), 3. Reproduction mode, 4. Mode of transmission, and 5. Disease/illness effected.

The influenza virus is absorbed by its “victim,” or host (either respiration or ingestion usually), and then it attaches itself to the cell wall of one of the host’s cells.  The virus then injects its viral-DNA into the cell where it synthesizes with cellular DNA and proteins.  Such is its process of reproduction, and its unit is referred to as a phage.  The cell’s own machinery is utilized to reproduce more phages.  The cell becomes “overcrowded” with phages and the cell wall lyses (or ruptures) to release untold numbers of new individual phages to (each) begin the cycle again.

Sometimes the phages form small “buds” that break off and infect another cell.  One of the problems with viruses is that they can have antigens, which are protein markers normally recognizable to our body’s White Blood Cells (WBC’s); the antigens mutate frequently, and this is the problem.  The WBC’s cannot recognize the new, mutated antigen as the problem.  Immunoglobulins are antibodies, and these are confounded by the change/mutation that prevents them from working effectively against the new form of the virus.

Viruses are very small, requiring (in most cases) an electron microscope to be able to detect them.  The field of comparison could be likened in this manner: a bacterial cell can be likened to the size of a bus, and a virus would be likened to a marble on that bus.  Provided please find a list of definitions that will help you that you can refer to in the subsequent article:

Virulence – the relative power and degree of pathogenicity possessed by organisms.

Retroviruses – (Retroviridae); these viruses contain reverse transcriptase, an enzyme essential for reverse transcription, i.e., production of a DNA molecule from an RNA model.

Neuraminidase – an enzyme present on the surface of influenza virus particles; enables the virus to separate from the cell.

Cytokine – One of more than 100 distinct proteins produced by WBC’s.  Provide signals to stimulate specific immune response during inflammation/infection.

Incubation – The interval between exposure to infection and the appearance of the first symptom.

You may be wondering a few things, but mainly, why all this?  You needed a few basics and some notes to help you with your understanding of the mechanics of the virus and how it affects you.  In order to provide clear-cut, factual information without continually explaining terms, these basics have been provided.  “What about naturopathic cures for seasonal influenza?” may be your next question?  You already have heard of standard herbal and natural foods to help with influenza (seasonal), such as Echinacea or Elderberry.  Such foods as these, in the case of the Ebola virus, or even the (almost forgotten) H5N1 (Bird flu virus)…these herbs will be detrimental to you.

In the case of the “standard” seasonal flu, however, Echinacea and Elderberry are just fine. Echinacea refers to the Purple Coneflower, primarily (Echinacea purpurea), and this is available in many different forms (capsule, liquid, and other forms).  Daily dosage is 900 mg of drug for a maximum duration of 8 weeks.

Echinacea refers to the Purple Coneflower, primarily (Echinacea purpurea), and this is available in many different forms (capsule, liquid, and other forms).  Daily dosage is 900 mg of drug for a maximum duration of 8 weeks.

 Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) can shorten the duration and severity of the flu.  The daily dosage is 10 – 15 grams.  With it and with Echinacea, check the label to see the proper dosage, as each can be found in varying strengths and concentrations as per the manufacturer.

Please keep in mind that all of the aforementioned naturopathic aids are supportive in nature and are an adjunct, not a substitute for a doctor’s care.  Consult with your friendly and happy family physician prior to taking any actions regarding any information provided in this article.  Be well.

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