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Sneezing

Cold & Flu Primer

If you think you have an upper respiratory infection (URI) — which includes the common cold, most sinus infections, chest colds (bronchitis), the "flu" (caused by the influenza virus), RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and COVID-19 — there’s a lot you can do at home to feel better faster. Learning what helps the most (and the least) is worth your time, and having these tools can help you get through the sick times! Below you will find information on how to handle if you do get sick followed by information on what to expect this season from viruses including Flu, RSV and COVID-19. The following information is meant for information purposes only. Talk to your physician or non-physician provider for how to address your personal concerns. 

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What to Expect with an Upper Respiratory Infection

More than 90 percent of upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses. These infections create different symptoms at each stage. Most colds, flus and COVID-19 resolve in about a week, although some symptoms (like coughing) can take weeks to go away completely even after you are no longer infectious.

Colds, flu, and COVID-19 are contagious from the time you get them (even before you have symptoms) up to ten days after your symptoms start. They’re usually not contagious after ten days, even if you’re still coughing or congested.

The best way to avoid passing on a URI (or catching one in the first place) is to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze and wear a mask that fully covers your mouth and nose. It’s also best to take at least a couple of days off work or school while you’re most contagious.

Here is the typical timeline of an upper respiratory infection:

  • Day 1: Fatigue, headache, sore or scratchy throat.

  • Day 2: Sore throat worsens, low fever, mild nasal congestion.

  • Day 3: Congestion worsens, sinus and ear pressure become very uncomfortable. It may be difficult to sleep.

  • Day 4: Mucus may turn yellow or green (this is normal). Sore throat improves, but coughing begins.

  • Days 5-7: Energy and congestion improve.

  • 1 week+: Cough usually tapers off after a week, but can take up to 3-6 weeks to fully resolve.

If your symptoms are much worse than these, such as coughing so hard you throw up, coughing up bloody mucus, difficulty breathing, or if you have a fever over 102°F, you might have something more serious going on, like pertussis (whooping cough) or bacterial pneumonia.

If a cold drags on for more than 2 weeks, it can turn into a sinus infection that causes pain around the eyes, nose and/or sinus headaches. Chest colds (bronchitis) cause chest congestion and a hacking cough that drag on for a few weeks.

The flu comes with similar symptoms but features a prominent fever, chills, headache, and body aches that usually last several days.

COVID-19 can feel very similar to other colds and can sometimes have additional symptoms like loss of taste or smell which can help distinguish this virus. It’s important for folks to get tested and stay home with cold symptoms to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep everyone safe, and help end the pandemic.

What about antibiotics?

Almost all URIs are caused by viruses, and at present we don’t have medications that work against them. (One notable exception: There are antiviral medications for the flu like Tamiflu. If you start them in the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms, it might reduce the duration of your illness by about a day.)

As for the small percentage of upper respiratory infections caused by bacteria, most go away on their own — and often just as quickly — even if you don’t take antibiotics. So if there’s a chance antibiotics can help, what’s the harm?

There are many reasons to be conscientious about taking antibiotics, including breeding resistant superbugs or making your health care cost more. However, there’s another reason that’s of immediate concern: diarrhea. Antibiotics can wreak havoc in your intestines and upset the normal balance of bacteria — including the bacteria that help you digest food, which can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and alternating diarrhea and constipation. Taking multiple courses of antibiotics puts you at risk of potentially long-lasting effects on your gut.

Like everything health-related, the decision about whether to take antibiotics for a bacterial infection comes down to weighing the risks and benefits. Your provider will be happy to discuss the decision with you in detail.

When to be concerned and call your Physician!

Occasionally, viral infections can set the stage for more complicated bacterial infections. If you experience any of the following, call your healthcare provider:

  • High fever (over 102°F)

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing

  • Coughing up bloody mucus

  • Coughing so hard that you throw up

  • Feeling worse after 7-10 days of symptoms, especially if you have worsening headache, congestion, or sinus pain

  • If you don’t start to feel better after 10 days of symptoms

I want RELIEF! At home things you can try!

Cough and Chest Congestion

  • Antihistamine/decongestant combo (e.g., brompheniramine/pseudoephedrine)

  • Cough suppressant: Dextromethorphan (Delsym)

  • Expectorant (mucus thinner): Guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin)

  • Gentle hot tea (chamomile, licorice root, peppermint, thyme) with or without honey or lemon juice; Traditional Medicinals “Throat Coat” or “Breathe Easy” teas.

  • Honey (1 tablespoon of raw honey 1 to 3 times daily). Note: honey is not safe for infants under 12 months.

  • Steam inhalation: An effective way is to steam a bathroom with hot water and sit in the steam for 20-30 mins at a time. Another way is to boil 1 inch of water in a pot, remove from the stove, add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil if desired, and inhale slowly for a few minutes twice daily with a towel over your head.

Sore Throat

  • Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol). It’s OK to use the maximum dose for 1 or 2 days while your symptoms are at their worst. Follow directions on the packaging.

  • Cooling or numbing medicines: Chloraseptic spray, lozenges, gargle echinacea tincture in water.

  • Saltwater gargles throughout the day: 1 tablespoon of salt in a glass of warm water.

  • Warm tea with honey, Traditional Medicinals “throat coat” or “breathe easy” teas, “sore throat tea“:

    • Peppermint (teabags or fresh)
      8 slices fresh ginger
      4 cloves garlic
      Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
      Honey​

      • Peel the garlic cloves, then whack them with the side of a knife to release the essential oils.

      • Boil the peppermint, sliced ginger, and crushed garlic in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes.

      • Add lemon and honey to taste.

  • Chicken soup or other clear broth.

Nasal Congestion and Sinus Pressure

  • Oral decongestants: Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is the most effective choice., Anticipate requesting and showing ID for the medication at the pharmacist counter. Avoid decongestants if you have poorly controlled high blood pressure.

  • Nasal spray decongestant: Oxymetazoline (Afrin). Don’t use this for more than 3 days, or your congestion will come back even worse.

  • Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol). It’s okay to use the maximum dose for 1 or 2 days while your symptoms are at their worst. Follow directions on the packaging.

  • Nasal steroid spray: Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort

  • Nasal irrigation twice daily with warm salt water (neti pot, NeilMed Sinus Rinse, Nasaline)

  • Steam inhalation: Boil 1 inch of water in a pot, remove from the stove, add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil if desired, and inhale slowly for a few minutes twice daily with a towel over your head.

  • Moist heat compresses over your sinuses for several minutes a few times a day.

  • Herbs: Goldenseal, Bi Yan Pian, Sinupret

Runny Nose

  • Oral decongestants: Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can be the most effective choice for many. Anticipate requesting and showing ID for the medication at the pharmacist counter. If you have high blood pressure, avoid pseudoephedrine or take care to monitor your blood pressure while you take it.

  • Nasal spray decongestant: Oxymetazoline (Afrin) can be used for a short time. Don’t use this for more than 3 days, or your congestion will come back even worse.

  • Antihistamines: Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin, Benadryl (all available in generic formulas) are all effective. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will make you sleepy; the others won’t. Antihistamines tend to work better for runny noses from allergies, but they can help a bit, and they come in some of the combination cold/flu products.

  • Saline nasal spray

  • Steam inhalation: Boil 1 inch of water in a pot, remove from the stove, add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil if desired, and inhale slowly for a few minutes twice daily with a towel over your head.

Fever

  • Fever reducers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)

  • Drink lots of water.

  • Take a warm or cool shower.

  • Warm tea (chamomile, peppermint)

Headache and Body Aches

  • Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). It’s okay to use the maximum dose for 1 or 2 days while your symptoms are at their worst, as long as there are no contraindications. Follow directions on the packaging.

  • Moist heat compresses or cold packs.

  • Rub on Tiger Balm.

  • Take a nap.

  • Take a warm bath with Epsom salts.

More on Flu, RSV and COVID

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Dr. Concepcion talks about the
2023-2024 Cold & Flu Season 

Dr. Concepcion talks about the
2023-2024 Cold & Flu Season - Transcript (AI generated)

How mRNA Vaccines Work - Simply Explained
04:26

How mRNA Vaccines Work - Simply Explained

mRNA vaccines have to potential to end the COVID19 pandemic. How do they work? Are they safe? And how could they've been developed so quickly? The main idea of mRNA vaccines is to trick our bodies to produce part of a virus. This kickstarts our immune response, without getting us sick. All that's needed is a part of the virus's DNA or RNA, packaged into mRNA. Cool! (mRNA is the technology behind the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna & CureVac) 💡 Follow-up video https://youtu.be/CfZjK2eIDFM I answer 10 of your mostly asked questions (and address some misconceptions). 📚 Sources used to make this video: https://savjee.be/videos/simply-explained/mrna-vaccines/ ☝️ This page also contains answers for frequently asked questions. 💌 Sign up for Simply Explained Newsletter: https://newsletter.simplyexplained.com Monthly newsletter with cool stuff I found on the internet (related to science, technology, biology, and other nerdy things)! No spam. Ever. Promise! 📢 Help translate this video into other languages: https://amara.org/en/videos/5xxdHBPpQHsH/info/how-mrna-vaccines-work-simply-explained/ 🌍 Follow me Twitter: https://twitter.com/Savjee Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simplyexplained_com/ TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@simplyexplained_com Website: https://simplyexplained.com ❤️ Become a Simply Explained member: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnxrdFPXJMeHru_b4Q_vTPQ/join #mrna #vaccine #covid19 #simplyexplained

2023 Cold and Flu Season Vaccine Information From

Big Trees MD

 

Flu

see more helpful links at the bottom of the page!

  • Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications

  • Flu season historically peaks between December and February, although significant activity can last as late as May. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the timing and duration of flu activity has been less predictable.

  • If you are under the age of 9, talk with your healthcare provider to determine if one or two doses of influenza vaccination is recommended

  • For most persons who need only one dose of influenza vaccine for the season, vaccination should ideally be offered during September or October; however, vaccination should continue throughout the season as long as influenza viruses are circulating

  • Persons who are pregnant or who might be pregnant during the influenza season should receive influenza vaccine. Pregnant women at a higher risk for getting the flu and developing flu-related complications.

    • Flu caught during pregnancy can be harmful not only to pregnant mothers but also to their unborn baby. Problems related to flu during pregnancy include your baby being born too early, or being a low birth weight. In serious cases, it can even lead to stillbirth. Flu can be fatal for newborn babies.

  • Adults aged ≥65 years should preferentially receive high-dose influenza vaccination; if none is available at an opportunity for vaccine administration, then any other age-appropriate influenza vaccine should be used

 

RSV

see more helpful links at the bottom of the page!

BABIES and RSV - Beyfortus and Synagis

  • Beyfortus - FDA-approved vaccine for all babies up to 8 months old who are about to enter their first RSV season AND for infants between 8 and 19 months who are at high risk of severe infection due to things like being born premature, having a congenital heart condition and other diagnoses. 

    • Studies show that the RSV vaccine Beyfortus reduced hospitalizations by up to 80%. 

    • Lasts about 5 months, the length of a typical RSV season.

  • Synagis is for a limited number of babies (specific criteria like being born prematurely before 35 weeks AND under 6 months of age, if they have lung or heart disease, so not for the babies without these issues) and has to be given each month.

  •  

  •  

  • ADULTS 60+ - Abrysvo and Arexy

  • CDC recommends adults 60 years and older may receive a single dose of RSV vaccine

    • RSV vaccine helps protect adults 60 years and older from RSV disease

    • older adults are at greater risk than young adults for serious complications from RSV because immune systems weaken with age

    • Certain underlying medical conditions may increase the risk of getting very sick from RSV and older adults with these conditions (chronic heart or lung disease; living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities) may especially benefit from getting RSV vaccine

 

COVID-19

see more helpful links at the bottom of the page!

There have been more than 1,127,152 deaths in the US (6,956,900 deaths worldwide) to date due to COVID-19 according to WHO data.

 

It has been reported as of August 2023 in Epidemiology and Infection, that the risk of death from SARS-CoV-2 Omicron infection was four times higher than that from influenza in late 2022 and early 2023. As of August 2023, the Covid variant with the highest prevalence is “Eris”, an Omicron subvariant. 

 

  • Everyone 6 months and older should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve received any original COVID-19 vaccines; partially completed vaccination series should be discussed with your healthcare provider. This is backed by both the US CDC as well as the European equivalent, the European Medicine Agency..

  • COVID-19 vaccine recommendations will be updated as needed.


 

Isolation Guidelines for

COVID-19 Exposure & Infection

 

For complete CDC Isolation and Exposure Guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html

 

Guidelines Summarized:

Covid EXPOSURE:

Wear a mask as soon as you find out you were exposed

IMMEDIATELY: Start counting from Day 1

  • Day 0 is the day of your last exposure to someone with COVID-19

  • Day 1 is the first full day after your last exposure

You can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed

Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (e.g., N95) any time you are around others inside your home or indoors in public. Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask. For travel guidance, see CDC’s Travel webpage.

Take extra precautions if you will be around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

 

DAY 6:

Get tested at least 5 full days after your last exposure

Test even if you don’t develop symptoms.

***If you already had COVID-19 within the past 90 days, see specific testing recommendations.

 

IF YOU TEST…

NEGATIVE

Continue taking precautions through day 10

  • Wear a high-quality mask when around others at home and indoors in public

You can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed

POSITIVE

  • If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days and isolate yourself from others in your home. You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days.

    • If you have symptoms, Day 0 is the day symptoms started

    • There are chances of false Neg, so if you are concerned, re-test

    • If you have no symptoms, Day 0 is the day you tested positive for COVID-19

  • Wear a high-quality mask if you must be around others at home and in public.

  • Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask. For travel guidance, see CDC’s Travel webpage.

  • Do not travel.

  • Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.

  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.

  • Take steps to improve ventilation at home, if possible.

  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.

  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

  • End isolation based on how serious your COVID-19 symptoms were. Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.

    • If you had no symptoms you may end isolation after day 5.

    • If you had symptoms and your symptoms are improving you may end isolation after day 5 if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication).

    • If you had symptoms and your symptoms are not improving, continue to isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving.

    • If you had symptoms and had Moderate illness (you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing), you need to isolate through day 10

    • If you had symptoms and had Severe illness (you were hospitalized) or have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through day 10, consult your doctor before ending isolation, and ending isolation without a viral test may not be an option for you.

  • Regardless of when you end isolation, until at least day 11:

    • Avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19

    • Remember to wear a high-quality mask when indoors around others at home and in public.

    • Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask until you are able to discontinue masking (see below).

    • For travel guidance, see CDC’s Travel webpage.

  • After you have ended isolation, when you are feeling better (no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and symptoms improving),

    • Wear your mask through day 10. OR

    • If you have access to antigen tests, you should consider using them. With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10.

  • After you have ended isolation, if your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, restart your isolation at day 0. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about your symptoms or when to end isolation.


 

HELPFUL LINKS:

CDC on Respiratory Viruses: https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/index.html

 

FLU

- CDC on Flu: https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html

 

RSV

- CDC on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html

 

- RSV and young infants:

https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/high-risk/infants-young-children.html

 

- FAQ for adults and the RSV vaccines (Arexvy and Abrysvo):

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rsv/hcp/older-adults-faqs.html

 

COVID-19

- California COVID-19 Main Site - see current infection status in CA and more:

https://covid19.ca.gov

 

- COVID-19 Action Plan: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/needs-extra-precautions/FS_COVID_Plan_FINAL.pdf

- COVID-19 Vaccines - who should get what?

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html

- Safety of COVID-19 vaccines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/safety-of-vaccines.html

 

- What’s an mRNA vaccine anyways?

https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/therapy/mrnavaccines/

 

- CDC on COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

 

- COVID-19 Vaccination Myths vs. Facts:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html

 

- How to Talk to Friends and Family about the Covid Vaccine:

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-talk-about-covid-19-vaccines

 

- CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker: Get the current numbers and stats on COVID-19:

https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#maps_new-admissions-state

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THE HISTORY OF FLU?

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