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Barbara Dehn, RN, MS, NP, FAANP, NCMP

Practicing Nurse Practitioner


San Francisco, CA

Barbara Dehn, RN, MS, NP, is a practicing nurse practitioner and a television health expert, who's known as Nurse Barb. She's passionate about health education, whether it's 1 on 1 with a patient, in a lecture hall at Stanford or with millions of people watching on television. Her warm and engaging personality puts everyone at ease as they learn more about health.

Nurse Barb is the award winning author of the Personal Guides to Health used by over 5 million women in the US, with titles ranging from fertility and pregnancy to menopause and breastfeeding. Active in Social Media, she contributes content to HealthyWomen, Huffington Post, NurseBarb, KevinMD and The Patch and amplifies her reach with an active and engaged Facebook following and 34,000 Twitter followers.

She is the author of The Hot Guide to a Cool Sexy Menopause, Nurse Barb's Guide to Breastfeeding and Nurse Barb's Guide to Pregnancy.

Barb earned a masters degree from UCSF and a BS from Boston College. She's certified by the North American Menopause Society and is a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Over the last 2 years, she's been an active participant in Global Health Initiatives at FAME Hospital in Karatu, Tanzania. Barb lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Sometimes it's hard to know if you have a cold or the flu. Here's some help checking your symptoms and deciding what to do.


How can you tell if you have a cold or the flu? And what should you do?

It's difficult because the symptoms of a cold and the symptoms of the flu are often similar, such as cough, runny nose and sore throat. However, there are differences.

Here are some differences:

  • Cold symptoms usually come on slowly, with mild symptoms like a cough, runny nose and sore throat.
  • People with a cold can usually function with their symptoms—but it's better to stay home if you're sneezing and coughing to avoid spreading germs.
  • The flu usually causes a fever, headaches, chills and aching muscles and joints. If you have the flu, it's important to stay home to avoid spreading the virus. Like a cold, flu can last a week or two. The flu may be contagious starting a day before symptoms appear until a week after becoming sick—possibly longer in children.
  • The flu typically hits people like a fast-moving train with a rapid onset of symptoms like profound fatigue, where just getting out of bed is an ordeal.
  • The flu may cause nausea and vomiting, especially in children, but those symptoms do not necessarily indicate flu.

What to do?

  • First of all, it's not too late to get your flu shot.
  • Always listen to your body. If you're experiencing severe symptoms, contact your health care provider.
  • For the very young, the very old and pregnant women, the flu can cause severe complications like pneumonia. It can even be fatal. Read more about pregnancy and the flu.
  • Wipe down potentially germy surfaces like grocery cart handles, airplane trays and the backs of airplane seats behind the trays.
  • Prevent the spread of colds and the flu by washing your hands and using tissues for coughs and sneezes.
  • Keep your immune system healthy all year round and especially this time of year. That means plenty of sleep; reducing or eliminating alcohol, smoking or vaping; and eating nutritious meals.
  • If you don't feel well for any reason, make sure you stay hydrated.
    • Drink honey and lemon tea and water.
    • Eat juicy melons, grapes and other foods with high water content.
    • Eat good old-fashioned chicken soup and other soups such as hot-and-sour soup and wonton soup.
  • For sore throats, gargle with warm saltwater. The salt helps clear the mucus film coating the throat and helps your immune system fight the microbes causing your symptoms.
  • Rest, rest, rest and more rest. Did I mention rest?
  • If you want to try supplements, these may boost your immune system:
    • Tumeric
    • Zinc lozenges and throat spray

is it a cold or a flu

This blog originally appeared on Nurse Barb. Barb Dehn is a women's health nurse practitioner, award-winning author and nationally recognized health expert. She practices with Women Physicians in the Silicon Valley of California.

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