Cold or Flu – How to Tell the Difference

Well, it’s that time of year again—cold and flu season! If you haven’t had either one, you’re extremely fortunate. Experts tell us that more than 60,000 people in the US have had the flu already this year. According to Margarita Rohr, a clinical instructor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Health, ‘This season is different because H3N2 is the predominant strain of flu. This is important because historically, this strain of flu has been associated with higher intensity of symptoms, more frequent hospitalizations and deaths.’

So here is a summary of the differences. Some symptoms are present in both cold and flu; however, there are some clear markers of the flu:

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  • Flu symptoms are usually more intense. According to Dr. Rohr, ‘a major symptom of the flu is muscle and body aches, which can be severe.’ Colds may have body aches, but they are usually less severe.
  • Flu symptoms appear quickly. According to Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, colds develop more slowly. ‘You can go from well to sick within a few hours (if you have the flu),’ he says.
  • Your body will feel more run down with the flu. If you can force yourself to go to work, it’s probably a cold. However, if you feel completely exhausted, it probably is the flu. According to Dr. Rohr, the feeling of exhaustion may linger for weeks.

If you suspect that you have the flu, see a doctor as soon as possible for a prescription.

Medicines like Tamiflu can help reduce the time you are afflicted with the illness. However, you must not delay. ‘The treatment window for flu is usually within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms,’ Dr. Tong says. And of course, the other normal recommendations apply: gets plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat well and include soups which can be an easy way to consume a lot of nutrients without a lot of cooking, and use a humidifier to open up breathing passages.

If your symptoms worsen, do not hesitate to return to the doctor for additional treatment. High fevers of 103 or 104 degrees Fahrenheit should not be ignored, warns Dr. Tong. Flu, also, can make one susceptible to other illnesses, like bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinusitis, according to Dr. Rohr.

Good luck this season! Listen to your body! It can tell you lots about yourself!

(Lindsay Holmes, “Do you have the flu or just a cold? Here’s how to tell. Health section of Huffington Post, 1-30-18)

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Food Stamps for Pets?

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, should people who receive food stamps (now known as SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) be allowed to use them to buy pet food?

Kit Kat:  Well, this is not a “yes” or “no” answer. The issue is complicated. It certainly is a worthy goal, since 14% of all households with pets make less than $25,000 a year. Current policy is that SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy pet food. It’s been that way since the program’s inception in 1964. Also, it would be hard to establish policies. A Chihuahua doesn’t eat as much as a Bernese mountain dog, for instance.

Edward B. Johnston, Jr. of Mississippi is going to try to have the policy changed. He sometimes has to share his meals with his dog, which is really not ideal for his dog’s health. He petitioned the Department of Agriculture along with 80,000 other people on the petition site Care2, as well as several animal welfare organizations. It’s a problem not unique to him. The ASPCA estimated in 2015 that 30% of low-income people who gave up their pets for adoption did so because of the cost of feeding a pet, which is approximately $235 per year, according to the Pet Products Association.

Until a decision is made, charities and companies like PetSmart fill the gap. Some food banks have food for pets, and PetSmart has joined Feeding America to distribute pet food to their national network of food banks. It’s not a perfect solution. Some like Mr. Johnston, who resides in rural Mississippi, lives 2.5 hours from the nearest food bank. The closest animal shelter is in another county. He wrote in his petition, ‘Being poor is hard enough without being expected to give up your companion.’ He intends to keep fighting. (Caitlin Dewey, “The surprising argument for extending food stamps to pets,” The Washington Post, January 23, 2018)

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