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Dr. Adela Taylor Explains Treatment Options for Upper Respiratory Infections

welcome everyone to Mayo Clinic radio

I'm dr. Tom shives

and I'm Tracy McCray well tis the season

for colds and flu and other upper

respiratory infections and what can you

do to prevent getting sick and what

should you do if you do pick up a bug we

need to know joining us on the telephone

from joining us on the phone from Mayo

Clinic Health System in Eau Claire

Wisconsin is allergy and asthma

specialist dr. Adela Taylor welcome to

the program dr. Taylor welcome and thank

you for the invite yeah well thanks for

being with us so it is the season for

colds and flu and let's start with the

cold is it is chicken stew soup still

the best way to treat that believe it or

not it is so treating the symptoms along

with a hopefully homemade bowl of

chicken soup really is the most

effective way to treat the common cold

it's a viral illness so antibiotics do

not do any good correct correct

what about over-the-counter remedies do

you recommend maybe acetaminophen

tylenol decongestants antihistamines

well some of those things are helpful so

things like acetaminophen which is

tylenol or the group known as NSAIDs

which would be your ibuprofen or aspirin

are helpful in reducing fevers and


cough suppressants have not been shown

to be very effective but come

combination products with antihistamines

and decongestants together seem to work

much better than using either one alone

in fact antihistamines can make things a

little bit worse by drying you out too

much yeah you just feel like I'm

drinking hot water or tea non-stop when

I'm taking some of those what about you

know there can be complications even of

the common cold when should you see your

doctor and what are some of those

complications so you should see your

doctor if this cold if your cold has

gone on for over ten days if you develop

a high fever if you start to have more

difficulty breathing or if you or

if you feel that you may be getting

other bacterial infections on top of it

so that could be an ear infection so for

example not just ears being clogged up

with a cold but now you have ear pain or

if they burst and they're draining if

you are an asthmatic and you start to

have respiratory symptoms that would be

a reason to see your doctor or if the

Colts gone on for over ten days and now

you're starting to have significant

sinus pressure and a cough that is very

productive of sputum that could be the

sign of a sinus infection does it matter

if it's green or not green or yellow or

clear it really doesn't and I have heard

that you should not blow your nose too

forcefully because that can give you

sinus problems is that true well it it

can back up some of the fluid not so

much into the sinuses but back into the

ears a bit

we recommend irrigating with saltwater

so rinsing your nose or flushing your

nose with saltwater can help move the

drainage that you have and help relieve

some of the pressure you're experiencing

how can you tell after a couple of days

of a cold I'm like okay it's a cold no

big deal and then all the sudden I go oh

no it's the flu or what if I'm getting

strep throat how can you tell the

difference between a cold and influenza

so influenza has a really abrupt onset

it comes on hard and fast sometimes

people can almost pinpoint it to the

hour that they got sick you develop a

fever that is but you can have a fever

with a cold but usually it's very

low-grade this is a much higher fever

usually associated with a pretty

significant sore throat and a headache

but really the abruptness of how quickly

you get sick would be a telltale sign

for influenza and strep throat again

it's a quick onset it comes on very very

fast and usually the fever is much

higher and the sore throat is real

significant and typically pretty

significant headache with it and there

is a test

first rep throat right if there's a

question about it don't you can't you do

a quick strep test yes so you can go in

and they swab the back of your throat

and very quickly they're able to tell

you whether it's positive for strep if

it is you need antibiotics and if it

isn't you don't need antibiotics correct

that's also correct so if it's strep

throat that means it's a bacterial

infection and should be treated with

antibiotics what about if there's a test

for the flu also isn't it

there is that's also a swab but it's

done through your nose and if that is

positive then there are medications to

treat influenza and how long does it

take to get that test result those

results come back pretty quickly yeah

and if as you were saying it comes on

really fast you you know this probably

is the flu you should go in right away

don't wait

do not go house go do not pass code you

should if you start to have very quick

onset of symptoms it is best to be seen

quickly because the medications for

influenza work best

the faster they are started so it really

is important to be seen within within 48

hours of when your symptoms start the

sooner the better because the that helps

shorten the duration of the infection

not by much what 24 or 48 hours I mean

they're okay but they're not great right

well right so depending on the drug

anywhere from a day to a couple of days

but anyone who's had the flu will take

one day less what about the lungs let's

move into the lungs and talk about

bronchitis or asthma does do people have

different different types of asthma when

it comes to the cold season um so as as

Mattox some of them divided up into

coffers where their major symptom is a

cough and others are more the shortness

of breath and wheezing with bronchitis

and asthma though it is much more

difficult to tease out whether it's

bronchitis or asthma but most asthmatics

know that they

asthma and if they have a viral

infection it's less likely to trigger

their asthma so if you do not have a

diagnosis of asthma it's unlikely that

you will have an upper respiratory tract

infection that results in asthma so

that's probably more bronchitis so is

bronchitis is the main symptom of that

would that just be coughing or a tight

chest so bronchitis the biggest symptom

is coughed but it can be associated with

some wheezing with some shortness of

breath and of course if you've been

coughing enough you're gonna feel that

your chest is tightening up and the COFF

can be productive or not productive so

you can get that discolored sputum but

not always

and then just bronchitis transition into

pneumonia if you don't take take care or

is this two different bugs altogether um

it can in most cases bronchitis will

resolve within a couple of weeks but in

predisposed patients you can end up with

pneumonia so we've all heard the term

walking pneumonia tell our listeners

what that means so walking pneumonia is

a pneumonia that is brought on by a

particular bug and so the symptoms tend

to be not as not as severe you don't you

still have the coughs but you're able to

go to work and function is our most of

the cases the walking pneumonia in other

words you're sick but you can still walk

around are they viral or they bacterial

they tend to they tend to be caused by a

specific bacteria okay so antibiotic

treatment would be appropriate would be

appropriate correct based on a sputum

culture um

oftentimes okay all right as we finish

up here you've got ten seconds to

convince everyone to stay home when

they're sick we didn't bring that up

please do please stay home rest in that

chicken noodle soup is really gonna be

the best treatment if you have that

upper respiratory tract infection

alright so how long are can you infect

someone else before you get symptoms of

the cold and how long after your

symptoms are going oh good question

Oh at least a few days before it's not

once you start coughing and sneezing

things than you are infective and that

can last for a couple days afterwards so

a good 12 weeks to 2 or 12 days to 2

weeks all right stay away from those

people right and wash your hands that's

the best way to keep from getting sick

is hand-washing eat right and plenty of

sleep and also good ideas all right our

thanks to dr. Adela Taylor from the Mayo

Clinic Health System in Eau Claire

Wisconsin thanks dr. Taylor thank you so