Guidelines for Illnesses

How can I tell if I'm getting a cold or the flu?

Colds and the flu are the most frequent health complaints and are generally caused by viruses. There is still no cure for these common ailments and antibiotics won't cure anything that isn't a bacterial infection. Symptoms of the common cold are "localized" in the head. You may have sneezing, a runny nose, stuffy head, headache, sore throat, cough, hoarseness and fever below 100.5 for 7 to 10 days. The flu includes many of the common cold symptoms and may also be accompanied by a tired feeling, aches and a fever above 100.5.

Nasal Congestion:

Try steam and hot drinks to help drainage. Don't use decongestants for more than three days without consulting a physician. Clear nostrils gently. Blowing your nose too hard may cause mucus to infect ears and sinuses. SEEK HELP if mucus is yellow or green; if there is pain in the ears, neck, or sinuses; or if symptoms last more than 10 days.

Productive Cough:

A "productive cough" is one that clears mucus from the throat. To make mucus easier to cough up, use a cough medicine containing an "expectorant," and inhale cool mist or steam or gargle with warm salt water. If mucus is green, yellow or bloody, SEEK HELP!

When you're turned inside out -- Is it something you ate?

Mild food poisoning probably strikes everyone at some time. Vomiting, cramps and diarrhea may begin one to six hours after eating. Food poisoning is usually caused by eating perishable food that has been left out too long (i.e. dairy products, salads prepared with mayonnaise, sausage, ham, dried beef, chicken or turkey gravy, sandwich spread, etc.) Partially cooked meat, poultry stuffing, leftovers and canned foods that are reheated are also likely culprits. SEEK HELP if you suspect food poisoning.


Make sure that you're getting enough fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), fluids and exercise. Avoid laxatives. There's no rule that says you must have a bowel movement every day.


Overeating, stress, emotional upset and sensitivity to certain foods may produce pain, a burning sensation or gas. Try antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids or Tums. SEEK HELP if the problem persists.

Genital/Urinary Infections

Symptoms include frequent urination, pressure on lower mid abdomen, a fever over 100 and burning with urination. Drink water and cranberry juice and SEEK HELP.

When it's "all in your head"

Muscular tension from stress accounts for 80% of all headaches. Stress may be psychological (worrying about grades, relationships, etc.). It may be physical (reading while slumped in a chair, drinking too many caffeinated beverages, eating too much chocolate, simply "overdoing it," etc.) Muscular pain is dull and steady, concentrated in the front or back of the head or like a band around the head. Try warm compresses, massages, relaxation and Tylenol or other aspirin substitutes.


A headache could be a sign of a serious condition if it arrives with lightning speed and severity, is localized on one side of the head, or is accompanied by vision problems, mental confusion, stiff neck, fever or pain in one eye.

Sudden Illness

If someone you know is experiencing an unusual illnesses (i.e. shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain or unexplainable drowsiness), ask several questions to determine the cause and SEEK HELP. Ask if they are taking any medications or if they have an illness that they know of. If they are on medication but forgot to take it, make sure they take their medication. If their chest hurts when they press on it, it is only muscular pain. They can take Advil (if not allergic to aspirin) or Tylenol to relieve the pain.


Seizures are sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain that may affect a person's muscle control, movement, speech, vision or awareness (consciousness), according to People prone to seizures can often live normal lives. They take their medication regularly to control the seizures. If you see someone having a seizure, remove any objects that may injure them. Put a blanket or pillow underneath their head to prevent injuries. If it is the first time a person has a seizure, encourage them to SEEK HELP.

Be a partner with your healthcare provider

Remember, even if you've consulted a health care provider to treat your illness, you are the one responsible for your recovery. Follow all instructions correctly. If you have any doubts concerning instructions, ask a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

SEEK HELP = Consult a Doctor