Distinguish Flu, Bronchitis, Pneumonia


If you never catch the flu in your lifetime, it’s a miracle. But if you contract influenza, or something similar, have an immediate action plan.

People Don’t Handle Flu Correctly


The pandemic masks are coming off in many areas of the world. Cases of the flu begin increasing in October, during the autumn to winter flu season—peaking between December and February.

Let’s be candid. It’s a major inconvenience when it strikes. Hopefully, you’re able to avoid it. But how do you react if you do? Let’s look at three scenarios. In each of them, the person has not been vaccination against influenza.

Jeff bundles up and pushes through his normal workday with difficulty, while infecting many of the people with which he comes into contact.

Karen buries herself beneath the covers through the most wearisome initial days. Then as soon as she has a measure of strength, leaps into action to handle necessary business.

Michael rides out all the symptoms while remaining in bed for a full week while popping cough drops, before emerging to interact with other people.

Which one do you imitate? Which do you think is correct? Would it surprise you to learn that each made serious mistakes? Let’s cover how you can better handle the flu correctly.

First, vaccination provides the greatest protection against severe flu symptoms. One study demonstrated up to 75% efficacy against life-threatening influenza in children. The CDC cites vaccine effectiveness against “medically attended illness” that ranges between 23% and 61% among adults, depending upon the vaccine-to-strain match. Data from current year is near the high end.

Some live under the mistaken assumption that vaccination causes the flu or that a Covid vaccination prevents it. While it’s true that you may contract the flu after a vaccination, your symptoms are generally milder with a more rapid recovery. But the vaccine itself does not cause the flu.

Second, flu symptoms mimic other illnesses with fever, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, coughing, and runny nose for up to two weeks. If it is the flu, it can exacerbate underlying conditions, such as asthma or COPD. If you are not in a high-risk group, assuming viral syndromes, including adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza and others are actually the flu can delay proper treatment.

Third, when diagnosed early, prescription antivirals like Tamiflu are most effective within the first 48 hours of symptom development. Adequate hydration along with fever-reducing over-the-counter medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, are helpful.

Female coughing into her sleeve
Wearing a mask lowers chances of spreading infection. But remaining out of public with proper diagnosis and treatment lowers it even further.

Recognize Early Flu Stages

With more than nine possible symptoms, onset can vary from one person to another. Generally, you may feel weakness and body aches with a sore throat that causes you cough or sneeze.

  • Fever (or chills)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting (mostly children)
  • Diarrhea (mostly children)

Phlegm dripping from the back of sinus cavities causes the sore throat. Lozenges may provide temporary relief, but they do not address the source.

People are most contagious during the first three to four days that their symptoms develop. So forcing yourself to work through the early stages can spread more infection.

When its Not The Flu

A chest cold—also called acute bronchitis—can last 3 weeks or longer. It manifests several symptoms that are similar to the flu.

  • Cough with/without mucus
  • Soreness in the chest
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches
  • Sore throat

Contact a doctor in person or via videoconferencing if any of the following situations develop:

  • Temperature of 100.4° F or higher
  • Cough with bloody mucus
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Symptoms that last more than 3 weeks
  • Repeated episodes of bronchitis

Antibiotics won’t help you get better if you have acute bronchitis. Other illnesses like pertussis or pneumonia can have symptoms similar to acute bronchitis. If you have pertussis or pneumonia, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics.

Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. Most symptoms of pneumonia mirror bronchitis, like fatigue, phlegm, and fever. Some distinguishing factors include:

  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough.
  • Breathing with wheezing sounds.
  • Fever as high as 105° F.
  • Lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems)

In either case, the small air sacs in your lungs that are responsible for oxygen exchange have function impaired. This due to inflammation with either pus or thick mucus. Because of overlapping symptoms, it’s best for medical professionals to make distinctions, especially if there are underlying conditions like asthma or COPD.

Doctors may use a chest X-ray to diagnose pneumonia. Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), determine whether your immune system is fighting an infection.

Mask wearing significantly reduced the number of flu cases in the first couple of years during Covid pandemic. Pushing through bad health by associating with others can spread infection, prolong symptoms, increase severity, and compound other illness.

After warding off a bout with this virulent disease, consider sterilizing or replacing your toothbrush and other oral hygiene products. With this added information from reliable sources, how will you respond to flu symptoms during this season?

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