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HEALTHWATCH: Flu vs Cold

It's officially flu season  and local doctors are treating cases of influenza "A" and "B" already.
Physicians say patients often come in with what they think is a stubborn cold, when they really are infected with the flu.
   
How you tell the difference between the symptoms
Dr. Reed Gahagan is getting ready for what he thinks will be a very busy flu season.

The newest member of Sacred Heart's Medical Group on Mobile Highway has already treated a few folks for the virus.

Gahagan says a common question he gets from his patients -- how can you tell if you have the flu or a cold??

They're caused by different viruses, but can have similar symptoms.
Gahagan says colds usually cause discomfort in a patients' head.
(("runny nose, cough, sinus congestion."))

For the flu -- their whole body is affected.
(("fever, muscle aches, vomiting. Diarrhea."))
   
A cold can creep in over a couple of days.  The flu presents within hours and is much more intense.

Gahagan says this year's flu vaccine covers two types of influenza a strains .A and one B strain.
   
Whether you get it through a shot or mist -- Gahagan says you're not immediately protected.

(("It takes about two weeks for immunization to be fully propagated."))
   
Gahagan says the shot and mist are equally effective -- but the mist may make you feel sick temporarily.

(("What will happen is your immune system reacts locally and the upper air passages and you get some stuffy nose and runny nose from the vaccine.  This does not mean you have the flu.  It's impossible to get the flu from the nasal vaccine or the shot."))
   
Gahagan says if you get the flu -- once you're better, you should still get vaccinated to cover you from other strains the rest of the season.

(("I've actually seen on the rapid flu test somebody had A and B at the same time."))
       
Gahagan says senior citizens and children are the most vulnerable to flu -- if a child hasn't ever had a flu shot, they'll need two vaccines a month a part to protect them..

Untreated -- a cold can turn into a sinus or ear infection.  Gahagan says flu can cause Bronchitis or Pneumonia even death.

He says researchers at the Center for Disease Control study flu strains year round.
(("They have a whole task force dedicated to determining what components of the vaccine should be included that year and they base it on population studies and what they see overseas as well."))
   
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