Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola continues to see people sickened by the flu outbreak that arrived early in Pensacola this year and has lasted longer than a typical flu season.
The first signs of the flu outbreak appeared in late October and the number of cases kept climbing throughout November and December. For the period from Oct. 28 through Jan. 5, Sacred Heart Hospital ran lab tests on 1,923 people who had flu-like symptoms. Of those, 546 tested positive for influenza.
Since the begining of December, the Sacred Heart Urgent Care Center in Pensacola has seen 186 people with flu-like symptoms. (The Urgent Care Center on Hwy 29 is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don't have a tissue, CDC suggests that you cough or sneeze into your elbow. Be sure to wash the shirt, blouse, jacket, etc. that you are wearing as soon as possible.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
At certain times of the year, it seems as if everyone is achy, sneezing or complaining about a sore throat. But with so many symptoms out there, how can you determine if you have a cold ? Well, there's no way to know for sure, but there are some differences.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases offers these guidelines:
- Fever - For colds, fever is rare; For flu, fever is characteristic, high (102-104°F), and lasts 3-4 days
- Headache - For colds, headache is rare; For flu, headaches are prominent
- General aches & pains - For colds, general aches are slight; For flu, aches and pains are typical and can be severe
- Fatigue, weakness - For colds, fatigue is quite mild; For flu, fatigue can last up to 2-3 weeks
- Extreme exhaustion - For colds, exhaustion is not a normal symptom; For flu, exhaustion is early and prominent
- Stuffy nose - For colds, stuffy nose is common; In flu, a stuffy nose is sometimes present
- Sneezing - For colds, sneezing is usual; For flu, sneezing is sometimes present
- Sore throat - For colds, sore throat is common; For flu, sore throat is sometimes present (
- Chest discomfort, cough - For colds, chest discomfort is mild to moderate; For flu, chest discomfort is common and can become severe
AAFP says that, while over a hundred different viruses can cause colds, there aren't as many that can cause flu (which is why there's a shot for flu, but not for colds). Although colds and flu seem to be more common in colder weather, you don't actually develop them as a reaction to the colder temperatures. Many experts believe the increase is due to the fact that people tend to spend more time indoors with others during the winter months, which increases the chances of a virus spreading.
There are no foolproof ways to keep yourself free of colds or flu. But the American Pharmaceutical Association (APA) has these suggestions to help you feel better:
- stay in bed and drink plenty of fluids
- breathing in hot vapors from a shower may help you feel better
- elevate your head at night to help nasal passages drain
- blow your nose to clear any congestion, but do it gently and blow both nostrils at the same time
- use medication for specific symptoms when appropriate