Easing the Pain of Flu Strain

UW Health's flu prevention resources advise you to prepare yourself for the "sick season" by understanding the differences between some of the most common illnesses.


Of course, prevention is the best way to avoid these illnesses: 

  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid sharing objects and touching your nose, mouth and eyes
  • Get enough sleep and reduce stress
  • Get flu vaccine, unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so

Cold Symptoms 

  • Runny nose, red eyes, sneezing, sore throat, dry cough, headache, general body aches
  • Onset gradual, typically lasting one to two days
  • A cold usually lasts about one to two weeks
  • One symptom usually precedes the others, while coughing and sore throats may persist after others have disappeared
  • Know the difference between colds and the flu

Home Treatment for Colds 

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Hot water, herbal tea or chicken soup will help relieve congestion.
  • Use disposable tissues, not handkerchiefs, to reduce the spread of virus to others
  • If your nose is red, put a bit of petroleum jelly on the sore area
  • Use nasal decongestant sprays for only three days or less. Longer use may actually increase irritation.

When to Call Your Physician 

  • If signs of pneumonia, bronchitis or other upper respiratory complications develop: increased coughing, difficulty breathing, high fever, ear pain, facial pain or chest pain
  • If symptoms persist beyond the typical duration of a cold (i.e., beyond one or two weeks)

Flu Symptoms 

  • Fever, lasting three to four days (about 102-104°F)
  • General aches and pains are extremely common and often severe
  • Fatigue and weakness can last up to three weeks, periodically resulting in extreme exhaustion
  • Know the difference between colds and the flu

Home Treatment for Flu

  • Plug in a cool mist vaporizer or take a hot, steamy shower to return moisture to dry nasal passages, throat and lips
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration drives your fever higher.
  • Go to bed earlier than usual. This reduces stress and helps fight the infection.

When to Call Your Physician 

  • If you are high risk (over the age of 65 or have a history of respiratory problems or chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes)
  • If you develop shortness of breath, painful breathing, ear aches, pain around your eyes or cheekbones or bad sore throat
  • If you seem to get better, then get worse again

Strep Symptoms 

  • Fever, headache and throat pain (young children may complain of stomach pain rather than throat pain)
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Bright red tonsils that may have white spots on them

Home Treatment for Strep 

  • Do not attempt home treatment if you suspect you or someone you love may have strep throat. Contact your physician immediately.
  • Complete all prescribed medication in full

When to Call Your Physician 

  • If your child has symptoms of strep throat, especially if someone in your family or in your child's school has recently had a strep infection
  • When you or your child develop any of the symptoms associated with strep throat (see above)

 *"Flu" refers to influenza, which is a wintertime respiratory illness. "Stomach flu" is a gastrointestinal illness with different symptoms and treatment. For more information, talk with your health care provider.