Colds & Flu

What Causes Colds & Flu

Viruses cause colds, flu and most sore throats and coughs.

How can I help avoid getting sick?

  • Wash hands with soap and water often.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get the “flu shot” or nasal-spray flu vaccine in October, November or December.

What if I become sick?

  • Keep away from others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean shared surfaces often.
  • Stay home from work, school and other social events (when possible).

When should I go to the doctor?
Most health children and adults don’t need to go to the doctor if they have a virus. If you or your child has any of the following signs, going to the doctor is a good idea:

  • An infant becomes sick.
  • High fever (over 103) or fever (over 101) that lasts over 48 hours.
  • Cough, fever, or ear pain that lasts more than 10 days.
  • Severe ear pain.
  • Severe headache or pain in the face.
  • Severe sore throat with high fever or swollen “glands”.
  • Hard time breathing or chest pain.
  • Flu symptoms (body aches, high fever, tiredness, cough, sore throat) especially if you have other health problems and especially if there is a local flu outbreak.
  • Symptoms that don’t get better.

When should I go to the emergency department?
Learn the signs of problems that may be dangerous. These problems should be treated in the emergency room right away.

  • Moderate or severe difficulty breathing.
  • Very sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Not able to swallow or keep fluids down.

Do I need antibiotics?
Viruses cause most colds and “flu” infections. Since antibiotics do not work against viruses, they will not help viral infections and can be harmful. Your doctor will know of you need antibiotics. If your doctor doesn’t give you an antibiotic, ask for more information.

What else should I do if I get sick?

  • Rest and drink plenty of liquids (juice and water).
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  • Use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever or body aches.
  • Avoid aspirin for children or teenagers with fever or flu symptoms.

Posted on July 23rd, 2015 and last modified on October 10th, 2018.