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Q&A: Tamiflu

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Q: Dr Edelberg, you said in your last health tip that Tamiflu works on flu, which is caused by a virus, but not on colds. Why doesn’t it help with colds–aren’t most of them caused by a virus?

A: Great question. Antiviral medications are designed for a specific virus and Tamiflu is designed specifically for the influenza virus. Even though the flu virus changes ever so slightly each year (endlessly eluding vaccine makers), its basic structure remains the same. On the other hand, the common cold is caused by more than 50 different viruses, each one different enough from the next to sidestep a single antiviral cold medication. Also, annoying as they are, colds aren’t particularly disabling or dangerous. Nothing beats your own immune system for clearing the virus from your body.

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DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

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