Cold vs Flu: How Do Triage Nurses Differentiate?
Many times patients call a triage advice nurse with symptoms of cough, nasal congestion, fever and feeling sluggish. These symptoms are common with both a cold and Influenza. Colds vs flu: how does the triage nurse know which protocol to use to assure her patient reaches the right level of care?
This short video blog discusses how to tell the difference between the common cold and Influenza. Remember that when in doubt, always reach for the protocol that is going to give your patient the highest acuity and safest outcome.
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“Welcome to the TriageLogic learning center, a place where nurses can learn and discusses the newest and best practice methods being used to triage their patients. I am Marci Lawing, and I am the triage nurse educator. In this short video blog, I will discuss how to tell the difference between the common cold and influenza.”
“Many times, patients call a triage advice nurse with symptoms of cough, nasal congestions, fever, and feeling sluggish. These symptoms are common with both the cold and influenza. So how does a triage nurse know which protocol to use to ensure her patient reaches the right level of care?”
“All triage nurses wish they had a crystal ball or at least a way to swab patients over the phone during cold and flu season. Wouldn’t that make the decision on how to treat them so much easier?”
“So let’s start with the common cold. Colds usually begin slowly. First with a sore throat, followed by nasal congestion or drainage, then a few days later, a cough and even sneezing. Sometimes there is a slight fever noticed, usually not over 101. Watery nasal drainage starts clear and thin and can become thicker and darker, which is ok. It’s not necessarily an indication of an infection. Usually, you can perform your daily activities. You may be slower or more tired, but you can usually manage to get through the day. Common complications of a cold can include sinus congestion and middle ear infections.”
“Did you know that there are several hundred different viruses that may cause cold-like symptoms?”
“Now for symptoms of influenza. Flu-like symptoms are usually more severe than colds and, unlike the slow onset symptoms, flu symptoms come on very quickly. In addition to the sore throat, the fever is usually higher and the cough and congestion are usually more severe. You can also have a headache, muscle aches and soreness, and severe exhaustion. It’s not uncommon to feel run-down for a week or more with the flu. Complications of influenza can include Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Ear Infections, and even Pneumonia.”
“Now that we have gone over common symptoms of both a cold and of influenza, along with complications that can occur with each, it should be easier to determine which protocol to use to assess your patient’s symptoms. When in doubt, always reach for the protocol that is going to give you the highest acuity or the safest outcome for your patient.”