It's the time of year when incidents of cold, flu and other sicknesses can rise as the temperatures are colder and we spend more time indoors. Internal medicine doctor Ruben de los Santos, MD, PA, CMD, has been treating patients for 28 years. Here, he provides information about how to keep yourself and your family healthy.
What is the difference between the flu and a cold?
Both are viral and can have symptoms like fever, chills and cough, but the flu is more severe and can sometimes lead to complications like pneumonia and bronchitis. Symptoms such as shortness of breath or trouble breathing may signal a more serious problem. Certain people may be more at risk of complications, such as people with lower defenses, the elderly, people with diabetes, people who smoke and those with COPD.
How are flu and cold treated?
Most of the time, antibiotics are not necessary for a viral infection; rather, symptoms are treated with medications like cough syrup and Tylenol®. If a patient develops a serious complication, such as pneumonia, antibiotics may be given. If you have the flu, stay home and away from other people as much as possible to avoid infecting them. Also, good hygiene like hand washing is very important.
Can I still get the flu if I had the flu shot?
Yes, it takes about a month after getting the flu shot for your body to build antibodies to protect against the flu. Even after that, there is a possibility of getting the flu; but if you’ve had a flu shot, it is usually less aggressive. Also, getting vaccinated can provide protection against complications.
What else can I do to stay healthy?
It’s important to have a good balanced diet and a regular exercise program.* Doing this can improve your circulation and decrease blood sugar for people with diabetes. It is also important to control the medical conditions you have, take your medicines and be compliant. Additionally, protect yourself from cold weather and keep your regular doctor appointments. In addition to an annual checkup, some people may need to be seen more often.
*Before starting an exercise program, consult your doctor.
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