Preparing for cold and flu season

Submitted on: Monday, January 16, 2012

 

by Amye Wright, Herald Citizen

COOKEVILLE -- How many times have you heard that going outside under-dressed in these frigid temperatures will cause you to get sick?

That can be true, if your immune system is already depleted but the cold is caused by germs; a virus.

"People have the idea that going out in the cold gives you a cold," Dr. Mark Pierce, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, said. "Viruses and bacteria cause illness ... to get the cold you have to come into contact with the cold virus."

Contact includes sneezing or coughing into the open air or touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.

More than 200 different types of viruses cause a cold and the most common, Dr. Pierce says, is the rhinovirus.

"That's why there's really not a vaccine for the cold because you just can't cover everything," he said.

A person normally gets sick one to three days after coming into contact with the cold-causing virus and will experience a scratchy throat, coughing, congestion and runny nose.

"It doesn't matter what you do," Dr. Pierce said. "In a week or so (you will) get better."

Common over-the-counter medicines and remedies can help alleviate symptoms until the virus runs its course.

Dr. Pierce discourages people from taking antibiotics for the common cold.

"Antibiotics work against bacteria, not against viruses," he said.

Some people can even mistake the common cold for the flu -- if the symptoms are severe enough.

However, the flu differs in that a person will likely experience more aches, sore throat, coughing, and high fever.

"You just feel really bad all over," Dr. Pierce said. "All of your large muscle groups can ache."

Influenza can be fatal, he adds, but typically in patients who already have a preexisting health condition like diabetes or heart disease. It can also lead to pneumonia.

"We usually see it peak here in January," Stephanie Etter, Cookeville Regional Medical Center Infection Prevention manager, said.

So, what's the best way to protect yourself -- and others -- from getting sick in the first place?

Etter and Dr. Pierce agree that the best method is good old fashioned soap and water.

"Hand washing is really important," Dr. Pierce added. "Disinfecting surfaces, probably does help, but it's never been as good as hand washing."

When using hand sanitizers, Etter recommends that the solution should be lathered vigorously onto hands for at least 15 seconds or until completely dry.

Other general prevention tips include:

* Covering coughs and sneezes

* Avoiding the touching face -- eyes, nose and mouth

* Disinfecting high-contact surfaces

* Getting vaccinated against the flu

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months and older should get the flu shot. Very young people, the elderly and those with a chronic illness are at the highest risk for experiencing complications from the illness and should make it a point to get vaccinated, says Dr. Pierce.

"It's always a good idea to get the flu shot," he added. "Especially for those populations who are at an increased risk."

The flu vaccine is typically 50-to-80 percent effective in confirmed cases of the flu.

 

More News Stories

Monday, August 17, 2015
Becker's Hospital Review has published the 2015 edition of "100 Great Community Hospitals," a list based on hospitals' accolades, quality of care and services provided to their... READ MORE
Friday, August 14, 2015
Cookeville Regional Medical Center has received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Gold Performance Achievement Award for 2015. Cookeville Regional is one of... READ MORE
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Cookeville Regional Medical Center is excited to offer 3D mammography for breast cancer screening to women in the Upper Cumberland.  3D mammography produces a three-dimensional view of the... READ MORE
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Cookeville Regional Medical Center now houses a critical care simulation lab in ICU to help their nurses with continuing education and practicing techniques for patient safety. The lab is set up with... READ MORE
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Cookeville Regional Medical Center recently earned six awards in the Tennessee Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations' annual Prism awards competition. Cookeville Regional... READ MORE