How to Differentiate Between Seasonal Illnesses

In this months article Dr. Bowen covers the different type of seasonal illnesses that affect most of us.What is the common cold, and what causes it? The common cold, also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is a self-limited contagious illness that can be caused by a number of different types of viruses. More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold.

Because so many different viruses can cause a cold and because new cold viruses constantly develop, the body never builds up resistance against all of them. For this reason, colds are a frequent and recurring problem. The common cold is the most frequently occurring illness in the world, and it is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work.

What are the symptoms of the common cold? 

Nasal stuffiness or drainage, sore or scratchy throat, sneezing, hoarseness, cough, and perhaps a fever and headache. Many people feel tired and achy. These symptoms will typically last anywhere from three to 10 days.

How is the common cold spread?

Usually spread by direct hand-to-hand contact with infected secretions or from contaminated surfaces. i.e., doorknobs, keyboards, light switches, etc..

What is the difference between the common cold and influenza (the flu)?

Many people confuse the common cold with influenza (the flu). Influenza is caused by the influenza virus, while the common cold generally is not. While some of the symptoms of the common cold and influenza may be similar, patients with the common cold typically have a milder illness. Patients with influenza are usually sicker and have a more abrupt onset of illness with fever, chills, headache, body aches, dry cough, and extreme weakness.

What is the treatment for the common cold? 

There is no cure for the common cold. Home treatment is directed at alleviating the symptoms associated with the common cold and allowing this self-limiting illness to run its course. Rest, hydration and immune support may help to shorten the duration of illness.

Do not use aspirin or aspirin containing medications in children or teenagers because it has been associated with a rare potentially fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.

When should a doctor or other health-care practitioner be consulted?

Generally speaking, the common cold can be treated at home and managed with over-the-counter medications (if necessary). However, if you develop more severe symptoms such as shaking chills, high fever (greater than 102 F), severe headache or neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, chest pain, facial pain or yellow/green sinus drainage, you should consult your physician or health-care practitioner immediately.

What are flu symptoms? 

Typical clinical features of influenza include: fever (usually 100° F to 103° F in adults and often even higher in children), respiratory symptoms (cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose), headache, muscle aches and fatigue (sometimes extreme). Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection (especially in children) but gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely common. The term “stomach flu” is a misnomer that is sometimes used to describe gastrointestinal illnesses caused by other microorganisms.

So far this season, I have seen two major types of flu presentation. 1) Diarrhea and vomiting with general flu symptoms and 2) an upper respiratory infection with pink eye. Both have been taking 1-2 weeks to recover from.

If you have gotten ill, stay home from work and take care of yourself. If you are not getting better after a few days, call me and let me help get you back on track!!


Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine ˜ Revised 2nd Edition, Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND. Prima Publishing. 1998.

Medical Nutrition from Marz ˜ 2nd Edition, Russell B. Marz, N.D., MAcOM. Omni Press. 2002.

MERCK Manual ˜ 17th Edition, pp 816-818, Merck Research Laboratories. 1999.

The Clinician’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND., Herb Joiner-Bey, ND. Churchill Livingstone. 2002.

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