Flu | Cold | Sore Throat

Having Symptoms of the Flu?

At PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care, we can give you treatment for the flu, helping you feel better as soon as possible. Our location is staffed 24/7 with experienced providers to identify, treat and decrease your flu symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Flu:
  • Sore throat

  • Dry and wheezy cough

  • Headache

  • Nasal congestion

  • Chest discomfort

  • Sneezing

  • Muscle aches, particularly in back and legs

  • Fever and chills

  • Weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in some cases

What is Influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral infection that causes symptoms in the nose, throat and chest. It is very easy to catch this virus.  It can spread through the fluids created when coughing and sneezing. Although the flu can be similar to a common cold, flu is caused by a different group of viruses and can lead to symptoms that are usually severe, appear suddenly, as well as last for a week or two. Without treatment, influenza may lead to other conditions that could cause death, such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain or heart. People who are at a higher risk of getting a more severe case of the flu may include:

  • Babies and young children, up to 5 years of age

  • Adults over the age of 65 years

  • People with low or decreased immunity

  • Pregnant women

  • People who are overweight or have a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or more

  • People with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, asthma etc.

Cause of Influenza

The flu virus can be passed from one person to another by droplets in the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. One can either breathe the virus in directly or pick it up from objects like keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, etc. – or by shaking hands with someone who has the flu. The virus can spread a day before the symptoms appear in a person, and up to a week after getting infected.

Influenza viruses are always changing their surface structure, and this makes a person more likely to get the infection during their life. For instance, if you have had flu the before, the body develops antibodies to fight against the viruses. However, as the virus changes, your body may no longer see it as a problem until symptoms begin to appear. 

The Common Cold

Why do they call it the common cold? It is because so many people catch it.  Why isn’t there a cure yet? Mainly because what you know as the cold is caused by a large group of viruses and we do not have many cures for viral illnesses. The good news is that your body can effectively cure itself within a week or so. However, just because you get a cold once doesn’t protect you against getting it again several times in your life.

Anyone can catch a cold from tiny droplets in the air after someone coughs, sneezes, talks, or by touching objects like toys, phones, towels, and utensils with the virus on it.  If you touch an object that has the virus on it, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you are likely to catch a cold.

The first signs of a cold are usually a sore throat and runny nose. Other symptoms include:
  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Headaches

  • Body aches

  • Low-grade fever

  • Congestion

  • Generally feeling unwell (malaise)

  • Nasal discharge (green or yellow in color and thicker than usual)

    • Color does not tell if you have a bacterial infection as previously believed

Colds can develop one to three days after you are exposed to the virus.  They can last from 5 to 10 days. If you smoke, symptoms often last longer. If you do not improve after 10 days, seek additional care from your primary healthcare provider.

When to See a Physician

Adults

An adult with a cold should see a primary healthcare provider or visit an urgent care facility if:

  • You have a fever higher than 101.3F (38.5C)

  • The fever lasts five or more days or returns after a fever-free period

  • You are wheezing or have shortness of breath

  • You have a severe sore throat, headache, or sinus pain

Children

A child with a cold should see a primary healthcare provider or visit an urgent care facility if:

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks old.

  • The fever lasts more than two days, regardless of the child’s age

  • Symptoms do not improve or worsen

  • Severe symptoms occur- such as headache or cough

  • Wheezing

  • Ear pain

  • Extreme fussiness

  • Unusual drowsiness

  • Lack of appetite

Who is at Risk of Catching a Cold?

Anyone can catch a cold, but certain factors make it more likely.

Complications from a Cold

For some, a cold can result in:

  • Ear infection (otitis media). This is caused by a bacteria or virus entering the space behind the eardrum, resulting in earaches and potentially green or yellow nasal discharge or return of a fever

  • Asthma

  • Acute sinusitis.  This happens when the sinuses become infected and inflamed.

Other infections can occur while children are sick with a cold, including strep throat, pneumonia, croup, or bronchitis. If this occurs, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Prevent the spread of the cold and other illnesses:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

  • Clean your countertops with disinfectant, especially when someone is sick.

  • Sneeze and cough into tissues and discard them immediately, then wash your hands.

  • Don’t share dishes with other people when they are sick.

  • Avoid being around people who are sick with a cold.

  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and manage your stress.

Sore Throat

A sore throat can be caused by throat irritation, a virus, or a bacterial infection. All of them are painful, but it helps to know which one you are dealing with.

If you visit a healthcare provider for your sore throat, the provider will:

  • Look in your throat using a lighted instrument, as well as your ears and nose.

  • Feel your neck to check for swollen lymph nodes (glands)

  • Listen to your breathing with a stethoscope

  • Your provider may also take a swab of your throat

Sore Throat Due to Virus

A virus is the most common cause of a sore throat. Often, a viral sore throat appears with a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes, and sneezing.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for viral sore throats (or the common cold), but you can make it less painful.

  • Drink warm liquids

  • Gargle with warm salt water

  • Suck on ice chips or popsicles

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer.

  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist

Since your sore throat is probably due to a cold, you also need to drink plenty of fluids, rest, and eat a healthy diet. Some cold medications work better if you drink plenty of water.  This will help you feel better, too.

Sore Throat Due to Bacteria

One of the most common bacterial causes of a sore throat is due to the Streptococcus bacteria, also referred to as “strep throat”. Strep throat spreads through contact with an infected person’s nasal secretions or saliva. Strep throat is more common in children ages five to fifteen, but adults can catch it as well.

You might suspect strep if you have these symptoms:
  • Sudden and severe sore throat that rapidly worsens

  • Loss of appetite

  • Red tonsils with white spots

  • Fever

  • Painful swallowing

Strep throat is diagnosed by taking a swab of the back of your throat.  This is used for a rapid strep test performed right in the office. Sometimes a physician can diagnose strep throat just from your symptoms, especially when the throat is bright red and covered in white spots.  The lymph nodes in your neck may also be swollen. Often a fever is present while a cough is not.

Sometimes the throat swab will be sent to a laboratory to do a culture if the rapid strep test is negative, but your doctor still thinks you have a bacterial infection.

Without treatment, strep throat can develop into rheumatic fever.  This could harm the valves of your heart. If you think you have strep throat, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Properly treated with the right antibiotics, your sore throat is usually cured within 10 days.

Always finish your antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better. If your sore throat does not seem to be going away, call your healthcare provider immediately, but do not stop your medication unless your physician tells you to.

Tonsilitis

Your tonsils are in charge of fighting infection, but sometimes they get infected, too. The infection can be viral or bacterial. The tonsils become swollen, and you may have other symptoms.

  • Bad breath

  • Voice changes due to swelling

  • Fever

  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck

  • Painful swallowing

Treatment for tonsillitis is the same as with any other sore throat. Only bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Otherwise rest, fluids, and sucking on ice or something cold usually help.

Other Causes of Sore Throat

Sometimes your throat gets sore for other reasons.

  • Smoking

  • Irritants in the air

  • Allergies

  • Breathing dry air