Children's Health

published : 2023-10-27

Cold and Flu Season: Recognizing the Warning Signs and Seeking Medical Attention

Physicians provide valuable insights on when to seek medical attention and treatment

A person wrapped in a warm scarf and holding a tissue, signaling the onset of the cold and flu season. (Photo prompt: Taken with Nikon D750)

As winter approaches, people brace themselves for the onset of the cold and flu season.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking medical advice for respiratory symptoms has become increasingly common.

Dr. Mark Fendrick, a general internist at the University of Michigan, explains that while upper respiratory symptoms are prevalent, often they are self-limited and can be managed with home remedies.

However, there are instances when medical attention and treatment are necessary.

According to Dr. Fendrick, physicians prescribe antivirals for influenza or COVID-19, and antibiotics for bacterial infections like strep throat.

Understanding the signs and symptoms that warrant medical attention is crucial.

Differentiating between a common cold and the flu can be challenging since they share similar symptoms, such as nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and a sore throat.

A doctor examining a patient's throat, checking for signs of strep throat. (Photo prompt: Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

Experts note that flu symptoms are typically more severe than those of a cold.

Dr. James H. Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physician, explains that the flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia and bacteremia, although these are rare.

When you have a cold, your body produces mucus to clear out the virus, resulting in nasal congestion and other mild symptoms.

These symptoms usually peak within a few days and gradually subside without medications.

However, if you develop a fever along with headache and body aches, it may indicate influenza.

Dr. Conway advises watching out for symptoms that suggest a cold or flu has developed into a more serious infection, such as higher fevers, shaking chills, labored breathing, and severe headaches or confusion.

It's important to seek medical attention if symptoms persist beyond 10 days or worsen.

A close-up of a thermometer showing a high temperature, indicating fever. (Photo prompt: Taken with Sony Alpha a7 III)

Telemedicine offers a convenient way for individuals to consult healthcare providers and describe their symptoms without an in-person visit.

People at high risk of flu complications, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions, should contact their healthcare provider early to consider antiviral medications.

Tamiflu is commonly prescribed to reduce the duration of flu symptoms.

Parents should closely monitor children with the flu, particularly looking out for breathing difficulties, chest pain, and signs of dehydration.

Knowing the warning signs and taking preventive measures like getting vaccinated and staying home when ill can help reduce the spread of cold and flu viruses.

Embrace a healthy lifestyle and prioritize your well-being during this upcoming cold and flu season.