What Illnesses Are Going Around?

-Dr.Dianne McCallister, Chief Medical Officer at Porter Adventist Hospital

It's the time of year when Upper Respiratory Illnesses and flu are circulating through families and schools.

Upper Respiratory Illnesses include colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infections and pharyngitis - otherwise known as sore throats.

They are usually caused by viruses - which do not respond to antibiotics, or by bacteria - which are treated with antibiotics.

To make things more complicated, something that begins as a viral infection can make us more prone to developing a bacterial infection on top of the viral infection.

How To Tell The difference

Telling the difference between the two can be tricky - but the good news is that most Upper Respiratory Illnesses are viral - and will go away on their own. There are some rules of thumb that can help you:

  1. In adults, viral infections generally have low grade temperatures - around 99-100, while bacteria are more likely to produce high fevers. The exception here is the influenza virus which gives very high temperatures - and children can get high fevers from many viral infections
  2. Viruses usually involve more than one part - so if you have a sore throat, a cough, and your sinuses are achey - and even GI symptoms - all together - it is more likely viral
  3. If your mucus is clear or light yellow - that goes with a virus. Bacterial illnesses tend to produce dark green to brown phlegm.

We generally don't spend much time determining what viruses are going around, because it does not change the treatment.

The one exception is that this time of year we often do testing for influenza virus - because there are antiviral treatments for influenza.

What Can Be Done About Viruses?

The best, and really only, way to get rid of most viruses is to let time pass. It can take some time for your body to get rid of the virus - up to two to three weeks for many colds.

However, in the meantime - you can treat symptoms.

  1. Drinking a lot of fluid/water will help you feel better
  2. Take hot baths or steamy showers to help loosen up congestion
  3. Over the counter pain medications can help decrease achiness
  4. Sleep - a lot - it helps
  5. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist
When To See A Doctor

If you have any type of immune system problem - chemotherapy, chronic lung disease or certain drugs that suppress the immune system - you should see your doctor to make diagnose your illness.

For those of you who are healthy - you should see your doctor if you develop:

    Dark Green/Brown MucusHave High Fevers- Over 104Develop Shortness Of BreathAre Still Ill After About 4-5 Days

Why A Doctor Won't Prescribe Antibiotics

Antibiotics do not help viral infections - and can cause antibiotic resistance - which means that the antibiotic won't work if you do develop a bacterial infection.

Dr. McCallister is on 7NEWS at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. If you have a topic or question you would like her to discuss, email 11am@thedenverchannel.com.

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