The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 4, 2012

Is it COLD in here, or is it just FLU?

— In comparison to other seasons, the 2011-2012 season set a new record for the lowest and shortest peak of influenza-like illness. The season began late and was mild compared to most previous seasons for which data is available.

Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways, including when they begin, how severe they are, how long they last, which viruses will spread, and whether the viruses in the vaccine match flu viruses that are circulating.

— The common cold virus infection typically lasts three to five days and symptoms, which may include low-grade fever, chills, runny nose and sore throat, are self-limiting. “A cold will heal itself even without treatment,” explains Moawad.

Over-the-counter cold remedies like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and aches can help, along with antihistamines for nasal congestion.

— The flu typically involves high fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, chills, fatigue, body aches and muscle pains; some symptoms last beyond the 10-day mark.

“The flu is a stronger infection, different than the common cold,” says Moawad.

Flu can be prevented by vaccination, and there is treatment available following early diagnosis.

“My advice is to see your doctor, get information about vaccination and make sure to get the health care you need if you become sick and suspect flu.”