‘Tis the season of cold and flu. Congestion, runny noses and coughs are running rampant. The odds are not in your favor that you’ll make it through the cold and flu season untouched. In any given year, five to 20 people out of every 100 will get the flu.

Maine is one of 35 states reporting widespread flu activity with the majority of influenza related hospitalizations (61.5%) among those age 18 to 64.

How to know if it’s a cold or the flu?

How do you know if you’ve got a cold or if you’re battling the more serious flu bug? Both are respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms, so it can sometimes be difficult to know. Folks who’ve had the flu will tell you – you’ll know – the symptoms are usually more intense. Here’s a chart to help you make heads or tails of your symptoms.


When do you break down and call the doctor?

Colds typically go away without doctor treatment in about 14 days. They do not require antibiotics since antibiotics are not designed to treat viruses, only bacterial infections. If you experience the following, give your primary care provider a call:

  • If you become lightheaded, dizzy, or faint
  • Persistent or severe vomiting
  • A cough that sticks around after ten days
  • Pain or pressure in your chest that fluctuates with breathing
  • A prolonged fever or a fever over 102 degrees
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • When you experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Your symptoms get worse instead of better

With so many germs running rampant, how do you keep yourself healthy?

Wash your hands! Often. Every time you shake hands or return from a public place (grocery, restroom, etc.) wash your hands.

Don’t touch! Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes which can introduce germs to your body.

Get plenty of rest so you don’t become run down.

Exercise! Regular exercise helps boost your immune system.

Avoid those who show symptoms. It’s not rude, it’s smart!

If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to get the flu shot.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.

The CDC recommends:

All persons aged 6 months and older should be vaccinated annually, including pregnant women, with rare exceptions. Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for persons who are at increased risk for severe complications from influenza, or who are at high risk for influenza-related outpatient, emergency department, or hospital visits.