Is it Cold or Flu? (And What to Do)

How to tell the difference, and what to do about it

Is it Cold or Flu? (And What to Do)

My workdays at the clinic have been pretty full of mucus lately. Just about everyone who walks through the door is coughing or sneezing or clutching a sore throat or some variation of the above. And I’ve noticed, as always, a whole lot of confusion when it comes to colds and the flu.

What To Feed Your Kids When They Have The Flu

So what’s the difference between a cold and the flu? How do you know what you, or your kids, have? And...does it really matter, anyway?

Well, in fact it does matter. Because with a cold, you can (and should) battle it out on your own. For a little while, anyway. If your symptoms worsen or persist, you should come in. (As a guideline, a cold should run its course in about 7-10 days.) The flu, however, is different, and if you come in quickly, we may be able to prescribe an antiviral medication that can help your immune system.

Okay, so to help clear things up, I’ve created a handy little chart. Each symptom on the left will manifest differently, whether it’s a cold or the flu. Here’s how things break down:

Make sense?

Basically, the flu is an entirely different animal than a cold. While we all get colds from time to time, and it kind of stinks but you muddle through...the flu YOU DO NOT WANT. It will knock you on your ass. Many adults have never actually had the flu, so they don’t know just how bad it can be. But once you do get know.

How You Can Prevent Colds and The Flu In The First Place

So how about treatment? Whether it’s a cold or the flu, there are lots of home remedies that will help ease your symptoms while you’re immune system is going to war. From zinc to vitamin C to chicken soup, read all my recommendations here.

Note I have not mentioned anything about antibiotics. That’s because both the flu and the common cold are caused by VIRUSES. And viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Now, sometimes, either one of these viruses can lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Meaning: bacteria take advantage of the fact that your immune system is busy fighting the virus, so the bacteria sets up camp in a specific body part. Like your chest, for example (this is pneumonia) or your ears (middle ear infection).

Signs you may have a secondary bacterial infection: after you’ve been sick with a virus for a little while, instead of gradually getting better, you suddenly take a turn for the worse. You spike a fever. You start getting very specific symptoms, like an earache, or one-sided sinus pressure. This is when you go see your doctor. Also, if you've got a persistent sore throat and fever only (none of the other cold/flu symptoms) and it's like razor blades when you try to swallow—you should see your doc to rule out that lovely thing known as Strep Throat. Which is a bacterial infection, and does require antibiotics.

So how about you—have you ever had the flu? Any home remedies you swear by?

Stay healthy, everyone.


Healthy Distractions In Difficult Times

It's healthy to take time for yourself. Here's how.

Healthy Distractions In Difficult Times

I admit to needing a little distraction right now, in the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. At the same time, I admit to feeling somewhat guilty about entertaining that need. There are people out there who are suffering through a living nightmare, and I’m looking to soothe my own nerves? How self-absorbed. How trivial. Right?

But, the truth is, we all need to move forward. We all need to stay functional, for our own mental health, and for the health of our families.

It’s not a healthy thing to lock onto continuous news feeds. It’s not healthy to focus exclusively on one topic, no matter how consuming and important that topic may be.

It is healthy to take time for yourself, to be with your family, and yes, to choose a few healthy distractions.

Here are some suggestions:

Read a book

Lose yourself—for a little while, anyway—in something lovely. Something absorbing. Something delightful. Try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Emma by Jane Austen. On The Island by Tracy Garvis Graves (this one's next up on my personal TBR list).

Cuddle up for movie night

Make a big bowl popcorn. (Yes, I said popcorn. With butter. Your health can stand indulgences now and then. It's not all-quinoa-all-the-time with me.) Snuggle on the couch for family movie night, maybe for a holiday favourite, or maybe something completely off season (why not? There are no rules). Or, get out of the house and go to the theatre. But I would suggest, perhaps, that you go see something happy, something funny, or something inspiring. Maybe steer clear of the violent or the harrowing for the time being.

Connect with friends

And I mean in real life, if possible. Meet a girlfriend for coffee, go to your book club meeting (I went to mine last night, and it was wonderfully therapeutic), invite a good friend over for a glass of wine.

Enjoy some family time

The holidays are, of course, a perfect time for that. Instead of packing all kinds of festive activities into your schedule, clear the calendar and keep it simple. Make some Christmas crafts. Play outside. Build a snowman. Pull out your rolling pin and bake some cookies together. (Yes, I said cookies. See above comment re: quinoa.)


Okay, here’s where I put the 'health' back in 'healthy distractions,' I suppose. Work up a good old-fashioned sweat. Breathe through a yoga flow. Go for a run. Go skating. Or, if you’re here on the west coast, go for a family bike ride. (Er, sorry about that one. But, hey, if I have to miss all the fun award galas and movie premieres and Winterlude and everything by being out on the Pacific fringe, I'm going to take a few perks.)

Do something charitable

There is a lot of good to be gained by doing good things for others. Volunteering, helping, and giving--these acts are well-documented to improve happiness. And I’m talking about the happiness of the giver, even more so than the receiver. At this time of year there are plenty of ways to give and help. Here's one.

So how about you? Do you have any ideas for healthy distractions?

Happy holidays, everyone.





How To Cope With Morning Sickness

Because having your head in the toilet is not very ladylike. Or duchess-like.

How To Cope With Morning Sickness

So Kate Middleton is pregnant. (YAY!) But she’s also in hospital. (BOO!) She was admitted with hyperemesis gravidarum. (Um...say what?)

Hyperemesis is, essentially, a severe form of something many of us experience during pregnancy: morning sickness. But this is not a case of the Duchess being a bit of a princess (oh, poor me, I’m feeling a little sick...), because hyperemesis is a serious thing.

The nausea and vomiting that comes with hyperemesis is much worse than average and can be disabling. Worse, it can threaten the health of a pregnant woman (and her baby). Complications can include unhealthy weight loss, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies. Fortunately, hyperemesis is relatively uncommon.

But the much more common version, morning sickness, is no picnic either. So, if you’re pregnant, what can you do about morning sickness?

First, what is morning sickness?

We don’t fully understand what causes morning sickness, but it’s associated with increasing estrogen levels and other hormonal changes. Morning sickness typically starts in the first few weeks of pregnancy, as hormonal levels rise, peaks at about nine weeks gestation, and then tapers off after that. It usually resolves by about 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, but in some cases it can last all nine (torturesome) months. There’s a broad spectrum of the severity of morning sickness, and it certainly doesn’t have to be limited to the morning—although that’s the most common time. Queasiness can strike at any time during the day.

Good times.

So what can you do about morning sickness?

Nausea can make the early weeks of pregnancy downright miserable. If you suffer, what can you do? As it turns out, lots!

  • Avoid having an empty stomach, which tends to make nausea worse. Pro tip: a sleeve of saltines in your purse will become your best friend.
  • Avoid strong smells which can trigger nausea.
  • Avoid foods that make you feel sick. This is different for every woman, so listen to your body, but the common culprits are spicy, fatty, and acidic foods.
  • Ginger is a natural way to prevent and treat nausea. Try ginger ale, ginger tea, or ginger snaps.
  • Consider taking vitamin B6 and/or vitamin B12, which have been shown in studies to improve nausea in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor first, though.
  • Have small, frequent meals. An empty stomach exacerbates nausea, but so does an overly full one. Eat often, but not too much at any given sitting.
  • If you have nausea first thing in the morning, try eating a small snack (enter saltine crackers, again) before getting out of bed. Sorry about the crumbs.
  • Try acupressure; some women get relief of their nausea this way. Sea-bands are the easiest way to take advantage of this approach.
  • Iron supplements tend to make nausea worse, so if you’re taking iron (or it’s in your prenatal supplement), ask your doctor if they’re strictly necessary (at least until morning sickness passes). If they are necessary, try taking them at night, or splitting the dose and taking them twice a day instead of a large dose once daily.
  • Get plenty of rest. Morning sickness is often worse when you’re tired and stressed.
  • Know that there is medication to help you, if you need it. But don’t just start taking over-the-counter medication—talk to your doctor, who can prescribe a safe option.

 So how about you? Did you have morning sickness during your pregnancy? Did anything work for you?