Do you have a cold or the flu? And do you need to go to a GP?

Friday, 13th April, 2018

Some groups of people, including the over 65s, are at greater risk of developing a chest infection when they have a cold or flu.

THE unseasonally warm autumn may be tricking you into thinking it is still summer. Yet, as we head into April, we have truly entered cold and flu season.

But, how do you know when your common cold is actually something worse? And at what point do you need to emerge from under your pile of tissues on the couch and create a new pile in the waiting room of your doctor's office?

Dr Sara Whitburn, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says that while the common cold and the flu do share some symptoms, the flu can "come on more suddenly and the symptoms can be more severe".

In addition to a running nose and a cough, symptoms of the flu include a fever, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and, in more severe cases, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Although they may make you feel crummy, Dr Whitburn says most cases of the common cold, and even the flu, do not require a trip to the doctor's office.

"Most healthy people can recover from a cold or the ‘flu' if they rest at home, maintain a good fluid intake and take paracetamol if appropriate," she says.

However, certain people are at higher risk of developing chest infections or other complications from the flu, and should visit a GP. These groups include pregnant women, people over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children under five, and people with complex chronic medical conditions.

Even if you are not a member of one of these groups, the following symptoms indicate you need to see a doctor: experiencing difficulty breathing or chest pain, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting, or a fever with a rash.

But, even if you do not need to visit a doctor, soldiering on at work is ill-advised.

"It is important to take time off from work and social situations to recover from influenza and colds," Dr Whitburn says, adding that it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to completely resolve.

"Most people are very contagious in the first three to four days of the illness but this can range from the one to two days before and last up to five to seven days after the start of symptoms."

Canberra Times

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