UNDER-THE- WEATHER MAN (aka the common cold):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A sore throat and runny nose, followed by up to 10 days of coughing and sneezing.
IT COULD BE: A common cold—basically a viral infection that’s spread through the air, from shaking
hands or by touching a surface such as a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touching your eyes,
mouth or nose.
WHAT TO DO: Invent a cure and become a billionaire. Short of that, get lots of rest and drink plenty of
fluids. Over-the- counter medicines may soothe symptoms but won’t shorten the sickness.
DR ROTTEN FEVER (aka the flu):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (dry or with clear phlegm) accompanied by a sudden high fever, chills,
body aches, sore throat, fatigue and general misery.
IT COULD BE: The flu. “Influenza tends to come on like a truck,” says Todd Astor, a pulmonologist at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
WHAT TO DO: Get thee to a doctor ASAP. If you start taking an antiviral medication (Tamiflu) within 48
hours, it shortens your misery by a day and may reduce your risk for serious complications.
LUNG PHOOEY (aka pneumonia):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (often with yellow or green phlegm) accompanied by a fever, shaking
chills, difficulty breathing, chest pain, weakness and occasionally mental confusion.
IT COULD BE: Pneumonia, an infection of one or both lungs that causes their air sacs to fill up with fluid.
WHAT TO DO: See your physician, who may take an X-ray and prescribe an antibiotic. Some types of
pneumonia will put you in the hospital; others, such as “walking pneumonia,” don’t make you as sick.
THE PHLEGMISH MASTER (aka bronchitis):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (often with phlegm but not always), soreness in the chest and a fever.
IT COULD BE: Bronchitis. This is what people often refer to as a chest cold. It’s inflammation of the
bronchial tubes—the airways of the lungs swell and produce mucus, making you cough.
WHAT TO DO: See your doctor (especially if you have a fever), who may take an X-ray to rule out
pneumonia. Drink plenty of fluids, and breathe in steam from a hot shower.
COUGHUS INTERRUPTUS (aka pertussis):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe, forcing you to
inhale deeply, often making a “whooping” sound. Other signs include a runny nose with a low-grade
IT COULD BE: Whooping cough, or pertussis. A highly contagious respiratory disease, it’s caused by
bacteria that make your airways swell.
WHAT TO DO: See your physician for antibiotics ASAP—you won’t get as sick if you start taking them in
the first couple of weeks of having symptoms.
(As written in the December 2017 / January 2018 AARP Magazine)