Viral Illnesses That Spread Easily

Every year, millions of people in the United States get the common cold*. It’s the number one reason kids miss school, and adults miss work.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child will experience eight to ten colds in the first few years of their life.

For most people, the common cold only results in a few symptoms that cause a small amount of discomfort. Most colds clear up within seven to ten days.

Influenza, or the flu, is a much more severe viral illness that affects the lungs, throat and sinuses.

* Source: Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is the Common Cold?

The common cold is most easily spread through the air and close contact. It can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. However, the CDC says that the rhinovirus is the most common kind of virus that leads to the common cold.

Cold Symptoms

Common cold symptoms are easily recognized by most people. They typically start with a runny nose or sore throat, and may include the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Mild fever (typically in children, ranging from 101 – 102 F)
  • Mild achiness
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes

Generally, symptoms will peak within one to two days but may stay for up to two whole weeks.

Diagnosing a Cold

Typically, colds are diagnosed by symptoms that are present. Testing for the presence of the virus is not necessary.

Treating a Cold

Colds are viral illnesses, so they can’t be treated with normal antibiotics. There are several things that people can do to help alleviate some of the symptoms, including:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids
  • Use saline spray or nasal rinse
  • For a sore throat, gargle warm salt water
  • Use a humidifier or a cool mist
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help ease aches

What is the Flu?

nfluenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a respiratory illness that is extremely contagious and is caused by the flu virus. The human influenza A and B viruses are the reason for the seasonal outbreaks of the flu each year in the United States.

The flu can be prevented by getting vaccinated. Prime Urgent Care Center stocks the flu vaccine every fall to help patients stay healthy and protect themselves from the impending flu season.

Flu Symptoms

While flu symptoms are often similar to the common cold, they are typically more severe. They can also include:

  • Sudden onset of illness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)

Diagnosing the Flu

To properly diagnose you, your Prime Urgent Center medical team will conduct a physical exam, observe your symptoms, and take a medical history.

A physician can also run a test that can detect the influenza virus. The most common ones are called “rapid influenza diagnostics tests”, that can provide results in less than 15 minutes.

To complete the test, a medical professional will swab the back of your throat or the inside of your nose for a sample that will then be tested at Prime Urgent Center.

Treating the Flu

The flu can be treated by antiviral drugs that are typically only available by prescription. After consistent use, these medications can help lessen symptoms and overall recovery time.

These medications differ from antibiotics, which are what is used to treat bacterial infections. The flu is a viral illness, like a cold, and so cannot be treated with antibiotics.

It’s strongly recommended that you begin taking antiviral drugs to treat the flu within two days of experiencing your first symptoms. If you think you may have the flu, visit a medical professional as soon as possible to receive a diagnosis and prescription for antiviral drugs. If you are at high risk of developing complications from the flu, like pneumonia, it’s recommended that you still take a course of antiviral medications even if you have missed the suggested two-day window.*