Use Emergency Rooms for true emergencies. That's the word from ER Physicans as the flu, cold and respiratory ailments continue to grip the Garden State.

Southern Ocean Medical Center Primary Care Physician Lisa Kassenhoff, Photo Credit to MeridianHealth.com

Southern Ocean Medical Center Primary Care Physician Lisa Kassenoff says people should not run to the emergency room at the first sign of these seasonal illnesses. Instead, Kassenoff recommends that you treat flu and cold symptoms at home with Tylenol, Advil, lots of fluids and lots of rest. She also recommends that you contact your Primary Care Physician, so they can give you direction on what to take and where to go should the symptoms worsen.

Do you know the difference between a flu and cold?

 Flu Symptoms

Kassenoff, who also works at the Rowen University School of Osteopathic Medicine, said the flu virus typically causes a fever greater than 100.4 degrees, chills, body aches, cough and congestion and all those symptoms come on rather quickly, over the course of a few hours. Recognizing the flu in a few hours, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions, is critical because they can be treated with an anti-viral medication within the first 48 hours, reducing the severity, duration and complications associated with the illness.

Kassenoff said a virus like influenza usually last in your symptoms for 7 to 10 days and is treated with fluids and rest and medications that treat the symptoms.

Cold Symptoms

She said that a cold however, typically doesn't produce high fever. The cold does however, have coughing and congestion associated with it and typically comes on slowly over the course of a day or two. She said colds can be treated with over the counter medications for the common Cold, Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, lots of fluids and lots of rest.

When to go to the ER?

The question remains, when is it time to go to the ER? Kassenoff said patients who are not getting better with fluids and rest and have temperatures that are continuing to rise despite taking medicines to lower it should go to the ER. Also, patients who are unable to take in liquids on their own or folks who are experiencing worsening shortness of breath, should go to the ER.

When are you most Contagious?

Kassenoff said that as far as the common cold and flu goes, you're contagious during the period you have symptoms. She said they also urge patients that in the case of the flu, if you have a fever over 100.4, stay home until you have no fever for 24 hours without the use of medications that would lower your fever like Tylenol, Advil or Motrin.

Ounce of Prevention

However, Dr. Kassenoff said the best treatment is not catching these seasonal illnesses at all.

"So what is true is that it's more of an ounce of prevention. So if you are taking care of yourself before a cold and flu season, by washing your hands and eating healthy, drinking your water and getting your rest then hopefully if you were to get sick, the symptoms and the severity would be less."