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Ask Doctor Neil

Question: Are cold sores caused by the same virus that causes colds?
Answer: Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, not by one of the over 200 viruses that leads to colds. People infected with herpes simplex tend to have flare-ups when their immunity is lowered such as during illness or stress. Not infrequently, the herpes infection will cause a mouth sore during or after a bad cold or flu hence the association and the name.

Question: Can I still get the flu if I get the flu shot?
Answer: In general the flu shot is 70-80% effective; that is it provides complete protection 70-80% of the time. As we get older, our response to the flu shot declines. Over age 70, the flu shot maybe only 40% effective. Sometimes people do not get the flu shot early enough in the year to develop immunity before they are exposed to the virus. In other situations, a case of flu may come from a virus not included in the vaccine.

Question: When is a cold contagious?
Answer: In children, colds are contagious one to two days before symptoms begin. In adults, colds are spread once symptoms of sneezing and coughing develop. However in the flu, both children and adults can spread the virus as much as two days before symptoms develop.

Question: When do I need a chest X-ray?
Answer: Normally the three key signs that an X-ray is required are chest pain, shortness of breath and severe cough accompanied by green, cloudy, or rusty mucus. If you have underlying pulmonary or cardiac problems such as asthma or congestive heart failure, then even without these three symptoms, an X-ray is needed when a respiratory infection lingers beyond five days.

Question: Can vitamin C prevent colds?
Answer: In a word, no. Recent well-designed clinical trials have not shown that vitamin C can prevent colds. However, the same studies indicate that vitamin C may reduce the duration of symptoms and discomfort.

Question: If fever is a natural defense against infection, why should I try to lowerit?
Answer: While fever is a natural defense mechanism, it is not always helpful for infections. In fact, fever is dehydrating, raises blood pressure and puts a strain on the heart and kidneys. You will feel better and recover more quickly if fever is controlled.

Question: Are antiseptic sprays helpful in the home and office?
Answer: Disinfectant sprays and wipes, such as those made by Lysol, clean the surface of bathrooms, telephones and kitchens and have been shown to kill both viruses and bacteria. They cannot be used in the air, but cleaning of commonly used surfaces lowers the risk of catching common infections.

Question: Is garlic good for colds?
Answer:Garlic has mild antibacterial activity, but is not strong enough to help fight off infections such as strep throat or bacterial bronchitis. Garlic is delicious in food, but you need more targeted treatments for infections.

Question: Should I exercise with a cold?
Answer:I suggest that you do a “neck check.” If your symptoms are above your neck (e.g., sneezing, congestion, or sore throat) then its okay to work out. But if you have symptoms below the neck, including cough, body aches and chills, then take a break from the gym./FONT>

Question: Does stress cause me to catch colds?
Answer:Repeated studies have shown that stress depresses immunity and may increase risk of developing infections. However its easy to tell you to relax and much harder to control stressful work and family relationships. In the peak season for colds and flu, try to break the stress build-up by taking time for yourself. At least once a day, do something that you enjoy. Read a magazine, watch a TV show or meet friends to get some time to emotionally regroup. Even a small break in life pressures can help you body cope better.

Question: When should I call a doctor?
Answer: With most respiratory infections you probably feel sicker than you actually are. Nasal congestion makes it hard to breathe, while inflammatory compounds raise fever and produce aches and fatigue. When you call your physician with these complains you are not likely to get more advice than rest and take fluids. However there are three clear signals to call your doctor immediately:

  • Temperature over 102 F
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

These are signs that signals a significant infection has developed in your respiratory system and prompt medical attention is needed.


 
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When to call the doctor

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