What's Going Around: sore throats, URI, shingles - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

What's Going Around: sore throats, URI, shingles

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Dr. Addison Ward, a family medicine physician with Wellmont Medical Associates in Norton, Va., has some insight on sore throats.

He says:

"Common causes:  This time of year with changes in the weather, sore throat is a common complaint.   There are many causes of pharyngitis (sore throat) including allergies, and viral and bacterial infections.  Symptoms of viral infections include pain with swallowing, fever, swollen glands, and may be associated with nasal congestion, hoarseness, and cough.  Viral infections do not require antibiotics, and symptoms usually resolve within five to seven days.  Treatment at home may include salt water gargles, lozenges, and over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Motrin.  
Sore throat may also be caused by bacterial infections, most commonly streptococcus or "strep throat." Symptoms of strep throat include fever, swollen glands, and pain with swallowing, however unlike viral infections, often, there is no cough associated with strep throat. It is important to see your health care provider if you think you may have strep throat. Bacterial infections such as strep throat require antibiotics to prevent complications that may occur from the infection. Your health care provider can do a screening test and culture to check for strep throat. You should always seek medical care if your symptoms do not resolve with self-care, if your sore throat is severe, or if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing."

Christina Hammonds, a family nurse practitioner with Wellmont Medical Associates in Big Stone Gap, Va. Has seen upper respiratory infections, as well as shingles.  She gives some great information on both:

"What is a URI?

A common cold is an infection of the head and chest caused by a virus. It is a type of upper respiratory infection (URI). It can affect your nose, throat, sinuses, and ears.

What are the symptoms?

You usually start having cold symptoms 1 to 3 days after contact with a cold virus. Symptoms may include:

scratchy or sore throat, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, cough, watery eyes, ear congestion, slight fever (99 to 100°F, or 37.2 to 37.8°C), tiredness, headache, loss of appetite.

Colds can usually be diagnosed from your symptoms. Your health care provider may need to examine you to rule out other serious infections, such as strep throat and sinusitis.

Common colds are different from influenza (flu), even though both are caused by viruses. Influenza usually develops more suddenly than a cold. When you have the flu, you develop fever and muscle aches within a few hours, even as few as 1 or 2 hours. The symptoms of a cold develop more slowly and are usually milder.

How is it treated?

There are no medicines that cure a cold. You can treat your symptoms with nonprescription medicines such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, nose drops or sprays, cough syrups and drops, throat lozenges, and decongestants. Check with your provider before you take any of these drugs if you are already taking other medicines.

How long do the effects last?

Colds usually last 1 to 2 weeks. Sometimes you may get a bacterial infection after a cold, such as an ear infection or sinus infection.   

How can I take care of myself?

Get lots of rest. Drink lots of fluids, such as water, fruit juice, tea, and soda. Use a humidifier to increase air moisture, especially in your bedroom.
Use normal saline nose drops to relieve nasal congestion.

What can be done to help prevent the spread of colds?

The following suggestions may help prevent the spread of your cold to others.

Turn away from others and use tissues when you cough or sneeze.
Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
Wash your hands often and especially before touching food, dishes, glasses, silverware, or napkins.
Use paper cups and paper towels in bathrooms.
Don't let your nose or mouth touch public telephones or drinking fountains.
Don't share food or eating utensils with others.
Avoid close contact with others for the first 2 to 4 days.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

What is shingles?

Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus is called varicella zoster. You cannot develop shingles unless you have had a previous infection of chickenpox (usually as a child).

Shingles is also called herpes zoster. This infection is most common in people over 50 years of age, but young people can have it as well.

How does it occur?

If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for later developing shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays in your body. It moves to the roots of your nerve cells (near the spinal cord) and becomes inactive (dormant). Later, if the virus becomes active again, shingles is the name given to the symptoms it causes.

What exactly causes the virus to become active is not known. A weakened immune system seems to allow reactivation of the virus. Emotional stress seems to be a common trigger as well.

What are the symptoms?

The first sign of shingles is often burning, sharp pain, tingling, or numbness in or under your skin on one side of your body or face. The most common site is the back or upper abdomen. You may have severe itching or aching. You also may feel tired and ill with fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach.   Shortly after feeling pain and itching, you may develop a blistering rash, most likely in a group or line.

Is shingles contagious?

You cannot get shingles from someone else, but you may get chickenpox from close contact with someone who has shingles because the blisters contain chickenpox virus. Once your blisters are crusted over, they are no longer contagious.

How is it treated?

It is best to start treatment as soon as possible after you see the rash. Contact your health care provider to discuss treatment with antiviral medicine.  This medicine is most effective if you start taking it within the first 3 days of the rash. Antiviral medicine may speed your recovery and lessen the chance that the pain will last for a long time.

Your provider may also recommend or prescribe:

medicine for pain
antibacterial salves or lotions to help prevent bacterial infection of the blisters
corticosteroids (if you are over 50).

How long will the effects last?

The rash from shingles will heal in 1 to 3 weeks and the pain or irritation will usually go away in 3 to 5 weeks.

How can I take care of myself?

Take a pain-relief medicine such as acetaminophen. Take other medicine as prescribed by your health care provider.
Put cool, moist washcloths on the rash.
Rest in bed during the early stages if you have fever and other symptoms.
Try to avoid having clothing or bed linens rubbing against the rash. They might irritate it.
Call your health care provider if:
You develop worsening pain or fever.
You develop a stiff neck, hearing loss, or changes in thinking and reasoning.
The blisters show signs of bacterial infection, such as increasing pain or redness, or milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.
The blisters are close to the eyes or you have pain in your eyes.

How can I help prevent shingles?

If you have never had chickenpox, you can get a shot to help prevent infection with the chickenpox virus.
A vaccine, called Zostavax, is now available for people 60 years of age and older. The vaccine can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of shingles. It cannot be used to treat shingles once you have it."

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