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from 46,000 to 78,000
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 Medical Self-Care: Flu 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©

Colds & Flu


Colds and flu are caused by viruses. You can get a cold or flu virus from mucus on the hands of a person with the virus, such as through a handshake. You can pick up the viruses on towels, telephones, money, etc. Cold and flu viruses also travel through coughs and sneezes. Each year, 36,000 people die from pneumonia and other serious problems from the flu. This is especially true for persons who are age 65 or older, frail, and/or have:

  • A chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or bronchitis.
  • Heart disease.
  • Anemia.
  • Diabetes.
  • A weakened immune system from an illness, chemotherapy, taking corticosteroids, etc.
  • Cold and flu viruses can be spread through hand shakes and touching objects that has an infected person's mucus on them.


    Self-care treats colds and most cases of the flu.

    Prescribed antiviral medicines can make flu symptoms milder and help you get better sooner. The medicine needs to be started within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.

    Other medications to relieve symptoms may also be advised by your doctor.

    Antibiotics do not treat cold and flu viruses. Antibiotics treat infections from bacteria. Taking them for viruses is a main cause of antibiotic resistance. With this, bacteria that were once fought off by antibiotics have become stronger than the medicine. Certain bacteria have become so resistant that it is hard to find an antibiotic that is able to fight off the infection.

    Questions to Ask

    With a cold, does a child have one or more of these problems?

  • Blue color around the lips, fingernails, or skin.
  • Quick breathing or a very hard time breathing.
  • Grunting sounds with breathing.
  • Severe cough or wheezing.
  • Fever of 100.4ºF or higher in a baby less than 3 months old; 104ºF or higher in a child between 3 months and 3 years old.
  • Does an adult have any of these problems?

  • Blue color around the lips, fingernails, or skin.
  • Severe or increasing shortness of breath.
  • Severe wheezing.
  • Coughing up true red blood.
  • With or after the flu, do any of these symptoms of meningitis occur?

  • Stiff neck (can't bend the head forward to touch the chin to the chest).
  • Severe headache that persists.
  • Red or purple rash that doesn't fade when pressure is applied to the skin.
  • Seizure.
  • Lethargy.
  • In an infant, bulging of the fontanelle (soft spot of the skull).
  • (Excerpted from Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism)
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