JOHNSON CITY - No matter what time of year it is, Dr. Anna Gilbert usually has a pretty good idea what's going around. Right now, it's a little bit of everything.
"We've had bronchitis, we've seen upper respiratory infections, and we've also seen gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea," said Gilbert, who works as an internal medicine specialist at Johnson City Internal Medicine.
Gilbert's office has also treated several cases of the flu in recent weeks, meaning that the dreaded virus is steadily working its way through the population. But more common is the run-of- the-mill viral respiratory infection. Even though it's not the flu, it can still make you miserable, and sometimes it can hang on for weeks at a time.
"Often, we'll see patients who come in who have had these symptoms over a week or 10 days, and at that point they may actually require antibiotics," Gilbert said.
Patients typically come in with coughing, fatigue, sore throat, and sometimes a fever or sinus headache. Unfortunately, if the illness is caused by a virus, there's not much the doctor can do.
"It's hard to tell a patient this, but the best thing is to drink fluids and get plenty of rest, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it gives your body a chance to get over this," Gilbert said.
Sometimes a viral infection can set your body up for a longer-lasting bacterial infection, so if your symptoms have been steady for a week or more and you're not getting any better, it's probably time to call the doctor for some antibiotics.
"Generally, we will give antibiotics after seven to 10 days of having this," said Gilbert.
But even a viral illness can cause long-lasting illness in some patients.
"It is taking a while for some people to get over this. Often, people can have a post-infection cough that can require steroids if they've had a prolonged illness," Gilbert said. "And some people have pre-existing conditions. If someone already has underlying lung disease, asthma or other illnesses - even diabetes - it can make them more prone to needing more recovery time to get over something like this."
A good way to make sure your illness is as brief as possible is to take the time to take care of yourself when you do get sick. Gilbert said people who rest and drink plenty of fluids are more likely to shake the disease quickly.
"A lot of people keep trying to work through this, and they keep having these symptoms, and
they're not able to get their body to recuperate," she said. "Not everybody has the luxury of being able to take off when they're sick, and I understand that. But if at all possible, try to limit your activities, and really try to get some rest."
If you haven't been hit with the latest bug yet, now is the time to start defending yourself.
"Wash your hands, first and foremost," Gilbert said. "When you're out in public, definitely try to keep your hands washed as much as possible, and avoid rubbing your eyes. If you're around people who are sick, try to keep your distance. And just as if you were sick, continue staying well hydrated and get plenty of rest. Often when we get ourselves run down, that's when we're most susceptible to catching an illness."