Notes from the Parish Nurse


Lots of folks say they have the “flu” when they get ill during flu season. I have seen many patients come in saying they have the “flu” and need something to get back to work. They were generally diagnosed with a simple upper respiratory infection aka “a cold.” I have seen many patients come in and say they have the “flu”, who had to be driven in, had no desire to go to work or function in any capacity, and just want to stop the aching and malaise. They were generally diagnosed with influenza. So how can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
The key points are “sudden onset” and “severe symptoms” for influenza. One can generally function, and “muscle through” a bad cold. Influenza, not likely. On a scale of 1-10 for symptoms, 1 being minimal and 10 being the worst, influenza is a 10.  Both are caused by viruses, which are spread through the air and on contaminated surfaces. Also, folks infected with a virus are contagious a day before they even notice symptoms. And if you do have a fever, do not return to work or school until you have had no fever for 24 hours without taking a fever reducing medication, such as Tylenol, because you still will be contagious.

Characteristics Influenza Cold
Onset of symptoms Sudden Gradual
Fever High (100.4-105.8 F) None or mild (<100 F)
Muscle aches Severe Usually mild
Malaise/fatigue Severe Usually mild
Sore throat/cough Early Mild course
Chest symptoms Substernal burning Mild
Sneezing Occasional Common
Duration 7-10 days 3-4 days

I encourage all of you to discuss getting a flu shot with your healthcare provider as well as additional ways you can maintain a strong immune system. Are flu shots a guarantee you will not get the flu? No, but they are the best defense we have right now, and the best protection we have to prevent you – you the one with the strong immune system who could be a carrier with no symptoms- from possibly spreading the virus to those in your family and community who may not have strong enough immune system to fight off the virus, such as infants, the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, including folks undergoing chemotherapy and who are HIV+.
Besides getting a flu shot, other tips for preventing the spread of the flu virus are washing your hands frequently with soap and hot water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer when you can’t (keep one in your pocket or purse) and keeping your hands away from your face – no nose picking, teeth picking or eye goober picking!  And coughing or sneezing into your hand is no longer recommended. Tuck your face into your shoulder or crook of your elbow and sneeze or cough away! Lastly, if you have a fever, please stay home…your friends and co-workers will thank you for keeping your germs to yourself!
Wishing you all a healthy fall!

Lori Nitchal, Parish Nurse

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