Do I have the flu?


If you are sitting upright and still have the will to live…. probably not. Kidding aside I see so many patients that believe they have the flu when it is actually a common cold or sometimes even allergies.

Common cold virus symptoms include the following: mild to moderate hacking cough, sore throat, sneezing, runny and or stuffy nose, NO fever, mild aches and less often a mild headache. You can typically perform your daily functions.

Influenza (flu) symptoms: very sudden onset of symptoms, moderate to severe headache, fever (102-104 degrees Fahrenheit), severe body aches, exhaustion, severe cough, chest tightness or discomfort. You are unable to work or do much more than rest.

Allergic rhinitis symptoms: mild cough, some fatigue is possible, NO fever, itchy watery eyes, possible rash, runny nose and sneezing.

Treatment:  In 2016 there is still no cure for the cold.  There are antiviral medications that are often used to shorten the course and decrease the severity of the flu. But why not arm your immune system with a Flu vaccine to hopefully avoid it all together!  Allergies are best managed with antihistamines or topical nasal steroids (Flonase, Nasacort).


The manufacturers of Flonase made this easy chart to help explain what I’ve covered above.know-your-enemy.jpg

Not all sinus infections need antibiotics.

It is very important that if you suspect you have that good old sinus infection you communicate carefully with your provider. If you have been sick for less than a week your sinus infection is viral and does not require antibiotics.  To qualify as bacterial rhino sinusitis several key symptoms should be present.  1)duration longer than 10 days, 2)purulent (pus) nasal drainage,  and 3) re-sickening meaning that you began to get better and then were pretty sick once again.

Sinus infections are usually (9 out of 10 cases in adults; 5-7 out of 10 cases in children) caused by a virus. They are less commonly (1 out of 10 cases in adults; 3-5 out of 10 cases in children) caused by bacteria.[CDC website]

I’ll be honest.  Often we will give you a z-pak to get you out of the office faster instead of trying to convince you that you don’t really need antibiotics.  There is no such thing a “nipping it in the bud”.  We are sorry you don’t have time to be sick but taking an antibiotic when you have a viral illness will simply contribute to the every growing number of antibiotic resistant bugs.


So, what do you do to manage the symptoms of a viral sinus infection?

  • Get some extra rest, and stay hydrated
  • oral zinc can decrease the length of a viral illness
  • Put a warm compress over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure
  • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever
  • flush out the area with a neti pot or sinus rinse

So now you are armed with information to be a responsible  citizen when it comes to antibiotic overuse.