Ask the Doctor with Rob Riley - Jan. 14

Dr. Rob Riley and Dr. Bob Cassady stopped by 16 News Now at Noon to answer your weekly medical questions on January 14th. We also celebrated Dr. Riley's birthday!

Dr. Cassady will be taking over the Ask the Doctor segment in two weeks as Dr. Riley prepares for retirement.

Question 1: "What are the varieties of flu going around?"

The CDC reports we’re seeing a combination of influenza A and influenza B strains right now with a predominance of type B. That’s a little unusual in that usually type A flu hits early in the flu season and type B tends to hit later--more like February and March. Both types of flu can be deadly, but type B strains typically cause a somewhat less severe illness in the elderly who are particularly prone to serious complications. On the other hand, type B strains can hit children and adolescents especially hard.

Of note, the CDC reports overall influenza activity is down a little bit this week. It’s too soon to know if that means flu has peaked for this year or if we’re just getting past the bump in flu cases we expect to see every year over the holidays. In any event, this is a good time to remind everyone we’re not out of flu season yet, so it’s not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t already done that.

Question 2: "I’ve had a cough, nasal congestion, and sore throat for five days. Is it too late to go see my doctor?"

It depends. If the illness you have is caused by influenza, the medication we have to help shorten the illness doesn’t do much good if people have been sick for more than 48 hours. So at five days out, if you’re generally doing OK, waiting it out at home is a reasonable strategy. But if your symptoms are particularly severe or getting worse—high fevers, severe cough, shortness of breath, things like that. In those cases, seeing a physician could be important. You may be developing a pneumonia, for example, and your doctor can help with that.

The other situation where doctors can be helpful is when the illness persists If you get, say, more than 7-10 days out and your symptoms aren’t getting any better, that can sometimes be a sign of a sinus infection instead of just a cold, and your doctor may be able to help with that.