Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey
Ask Dr. Sharon

Fever, Chills, Cough; I Feel Miserable!

Posted by Administrator (admin) on Dec 11 2007
Ask Dr. Sharon >> Ask Dr. Sharon

Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, MD


We all know the misery of body aches, fever, and chills—feeling like you’ve been run over by Mac truck. The flu is a three-letter word that can humble the strongest adult to a point of calling for “Mommy!” According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are over 36,000 deaths each year from the Influenza Virus (Flu) and over 226,000 hospitalizations in the United States. The flu season generally peaks from late fall to late winter months and can affect any age group; with the highest rates found among children, however, the most serious and life threatening consequences are found in the elderly (over 65) and young children (under 2 years).

 Similarly, cold season begins in late August or early September; starts slowly, then escalates, until March or April, when it declines. The seasonal variation may relate to the opening of schools and cold weather, when people spend more time indoors, which increases the chances that viruses will spread. Sneezing, scratchy throat, and runny nose are initial signs of a cold, with symptoms lasting one to two weeks.

Flu Facts

Influenza (flu) is a respiratory disease caused by influenza virus infection. The types or strains of influenza virus that cause illness may change from year to year, or even within the same year. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headaches, dry cough, and muscle aches, and may for several days, or up to a week or more. Most people will recover completely; however, for some people, especially the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, the flu may be especially severe and pneumonia or other complications, including death, may occur. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Many different organisms can cause it, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Pneumonia can range from mild to severe, and can even be deadly. The severity depends on what caused the pneumonia as well your age and health. 

Flu Vaccine

The regular flu vaccine contains killed influenza virus of the types selected by the U.S. Public Health Service and the Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research of the US Food and Drug Administration. The types of include those that have most recently been causing influenza. The types change each year. The vaccine will not give you flu because it is a killed virus vaccine. As with any vaccine, the flu vaccine may not provide 100% protection, however if you are vaccinated and contract influenza, your symptoms will not normally be as severe and will last for a shorter time. 

As with any medical treatment or medication, there are possible risks associated with the vaccination. The most common reaction is some soreness at the site of the injection and less common are fever, headaches and muscle aches. The majority of persons that take the flu vaccine will not experience any side effects. But there is a possibility, as with any vaccine or drug, that an allergic or other serious reaction, or even death, could occur. 


Who should NOT take the flu vaccine?

  1. People allergic to eggs or egg products

  2. People sensitive to thimerosal (a substance used as an antiseptic and germ killer)

  3. People who have an active nerve disorder

  4. People with a fever, or active respiratory or other infection or illnesses

Symptoms: a Cold or the Flu?

It’s often hard to tell if you have a cold, the flu, or a more serious bacterial infection. These are general symptoms that may help alert you:

Is it a Cold or Flu?

  Symptoms  Common Cold  Influenza (Flu) 

Fever/ High Temperature


Usual, High (100 - 104 F); lasts 3-4 days




Muscle Aches, Joint Pain


 Usual; often SEVERE

Fatigue, Weakness

 Quite Mild

 Can last up to 2- 3 weeks

Extreme exhaustion


 Early and major issue

Stuffy nose


 Sometimes but RARE




Sore throat



Chest Discomfort, Cough

 Mild to


 Hacking cough

 Common; can become SEVERE

Duration of symptoms

 2 days to a week

 Several days to several weeks

Loss of appetite



Antibiotic prescription will help







Flu Treatment

There is no cure for the common cold or flu. If you elect to take over-the-counter treatments, you should read the package information first. Prescription medication from your physician must be taken within 48 hours of your symptoms. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or another medical condition; you should call your physician before you take any medication, including cough syrup.

The best treatment is still to get plenty of bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with warm salt water, and use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat fever and body aches. If you have a cough with greenish to yellow phlegm or nasal discharge, you should call your doctor immediately because you may have a bacterial infection that requires an antibiotic. You may also find some relief by taking deep breaths in a steam room or shower; nasal decongestants may also be helpful. There are many alternative remedies that are touted to help prevent and treat the cold or flu, such as: vitamin C, garlic, zinc, Echinacea, and Golden Seal; these should be discussed with your physician. While colds and flu are common, they can be very serious and should not be taken lightly. Contact your physician or go to an urgent care/emergency room if you develop symptoms of a bacterial infection, such as a new or worse cough that produces yellow, green, rust-colored, or bloody mucus; persistent fever, ear pain, sore throat, sinus pain, or productive cough; or nasal drainage that changes from clear to colored after 7 to 10 days


It is still true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most people catch colds by inhaling or having hand-to-hand contact with someone who has the cold or flu virus. There are several common sense approaches to protecting your family and yourself from the cold or flu.

Good prevention for both is:

Ø Wash your hands thoroughly;

Ø Avoid close contact with persons that are ill;

Ø Clean counter tops and common areas in your home with disinfectants if someone in the house is ill;

Ø Quit Smoking;

Ø Avoid dry air—which can cause your nasal passages to get dry and cracked and increase your risks of breathing in the viruses.


Pneumonia is a lung infection that is a serious medical condition. Symptoms may include cough with mucous, fever, shivers, chills, chest pain that worsens when breathing in or out, shortness of breath, exhaustion and accelerated heartbeat. The majority of people with pneumonia do not need to be hospitalized and will get better within two to three weeks with proper medical care. However, for the elderly, children and persons with other medical conditions; pneumonia can be deadly and hospitalized may be necessary.

There are several types of pneumonia and your physician will be essential in helping you determine treatment options. A physician will generally use a chest X ray to diagnose pneumonia after listening to your symptoms. Treatment options may include antibiotics and other medications. It is essential to follow your doctor’s advice and take medications as prescribed.











Last changed: Dec 11 2007 at 1:43 PM


The contents of the Site, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the Site ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Further, the response to questions should be viewed as general health information and not as clinical advice or treatment from Sharon Allison-Ottey or her associates. Always seek the advice of your personal physician, psychologist or other health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychiatric conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Site. Sharon Allison-Ottey encourages all persons to seek personal, private care from a medical professional on a regular basis. The information on this site is in no way a substitution or extension of clinical care and Sharon Allison-Ottey and associates provide the information as health educators. By reading and visiting this site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand the terms and conditions of use of the information. Further Sharon Allison-Ottey and associates are released from any and all liability related to the information provided.