But I Don't WANT To Be Sick!

January 9, 2013
Cleveland Heights, OH

Both colds and the flu are caused by viruses – many different ones. Once an infected person shares their virus by coughing or sneezing it into the air, touching things after coughing or sneezing on their hands, or by sharing glasses, cups, forks or spoons, the virus strains are able to make others sick as well.  The bad news? There are so many viruses (thousands) that cause colds that there is no vaccine against them.  The good news is that with some simple acts of prevention and generally taking good care of yourself and loved ones, you can lessen your risk of getting sick with either type of illness.  You can help shorten the time you are sick, as well.

The best way to deal with a virus?  Don’t catch it! 

  • Support your immune system by eating healthy foods, drinking lots of fluids, and getting adequate rest.  It’s your immune system that will help you fight the virus.  Talk to your health care provider about vitamins or supplements if you are interested.
  • If you are over 6 months of age, get the flu shot unless you are allergic to any of the components in the vaccine, or have been told not to by your doctor. 
  • The flu shot cannot cause you to get the flu; the virus is grown in chicken eggs and is killed before anyone receives it.  There is nothing in the vaccine shot that is capable of causing the flu.
  • Vaccinations can be obtained in doctor’s offices, drug stores, and health clinics. You don’t have to wait for weeks to be scheduled for an appointment.
  • If you are feeling sick, but not having a major illness or running a high fever (over 1010 F.), the flu shot doesn’t present a health risk. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, rubbing actively for at least 20 seconds (mentally sing the “A-B-C song,” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” slowly) between the fingers and across the fronts and backs of your hands.
  • Wash your hands before and after eating or going to the bathroom.
  • Wash your hands after blowing your nose and throwing away the tissue.
  • Sneeze-in-your-Sleeve, Cough-in-your-Cuff – or at least use a tissue and not your bare hands to “catch” your cough or sneeze.
  • Take over-the-counter medications that treat specific symptoms – congestion, fever, headache, or cough – not multi-symptom drugs that might treat you for more problems than you have.
  • If you are under 21, or are taking care of someone under 21, DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN (also listed as acetylsalicylic acid). It can interact with the virus and can cause Reye’s Syndrome, which can cause death in someone who’s immune system is not fully mature. (NOTE: this is a possibility, not a direct cause-and-effect.) There are lots of other options out there.

Call your health care provider or the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (216-201-2041) if you have questions or concerns, or would like more information on ways to help yourself and loved ones to stay healthier.

How Do I Know if it’s a Cold or the Flu?





Highly contagious the first three days; usually lasts a week to 10 days

Symptoms come on quickly and are generally more severe. Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it is not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more.


Sometimes, usually mild

Usual; higher (1000 – 1020 F, occasionally higher especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days




General aches and pains


Usual; often severe

Fatigue, Weakness


Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks

Extreme Exhaustion


Usual; at the beginning of the illness

Stuffy nose






Sore throat



Chest discomfort, Cough

Mild to moderate; hacking cough

Common; can become severe


Sinus congestion; middle ear infection

Sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia; can be life-threatening


Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone with a cold; support your immune system

Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone who has flu symptoms; get the annual flu vaccine; support your immune system


Decongestants; pain reliever/fever reducer medications

Decongestants, pain relievers, or fever reducers are available over the counter; over the counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to young children unless your doctor tells you to do so; prescription antiviral drugs for flu may be given in some cases; call your doctor for more information about treatment

Virus(es) enter your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes or mouth.   Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you could be infecting yourself with a virus. Wash your hands!!

A lot of information is available on the internet – both accurate and not.  Information used for this article is from sites run by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the NIH (National Institutes of Health); the Cuyahoga County Board of Health  These, and many major hospitals and health care systems are generally more reliable than discussion and chat rooms.

Get extra rest, wash your hands, drink lots of water, wash your hands, avoid junk foods, and, oh yes – wash  your hands!  Here’s hoping the 2013 Tiger Nation will be off to a healthier start!

By Chris Bell, RN
CH-UH Head Nurse