It’s important to know the differenceYou’re considering going to the drugstore to pick up some over-the-counter medicines to help relieve your symptoms. But before you do, you might want to ask yourself, “Do I have a cold – or the flu?”
The answer to that question is important, because you may want to see your doctor for a prescription medicine if you think you have the flu.
Prescription flu medications (called antivirals) can reduce the amount of time that you’re sick. They may also reduce your risk for potentially dangerous complications from the flu, such as pneumonia. The catch is that these medications work best when taken within the first 48 hours after developing flu symptoms.
“A simple, in-office test can confirm whether you have influenza,” says Bennett Jackson, ANP, an Anchorage nurse practitioner.
“Because influenza kills thousands of high-risk people each year, use of antivirals is commonly limited to that population, which includes people with chronic lung conditions, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. The flu vaccine is the best option for almost everyone else.”
Use this chart to help figure out what’s ailing you.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get the annual flu vaccine. To help prevent a cold, wash your hands often.