Lying on the couch surrounded by tissues, Tylenol and half-empty cups of ginger ale, watching Home Improvement reruns, you shrug off the three-foot-thick pile of blankets and stumble to the thermostat to turn up the heat. Five minutes later, blankets sweat-drenched and on the floor, you drag yourself back across the room to turn it down.
Sometimes, a good diet and exercise aren't enough to stay well. And since a lot of "winter fun" involves things not associated with a healthy lifestyle extreme cold, hard candy, cheap brandy you're bound to pick up some kind of bug.
When you do, you should know there are three major strains of medical treatment available, with differing philosophies on how to remedy your aches, chills, sneezes and sniffles.
When you were a little kid with chicken pox or needing a dreaded shot, you probably saw an allopathic physician, otherwise known as an MD, or Doctor of Medicine. Allopathic physicians must be licensed in the United States, having completed four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, an internship and residency.
Dr. Ripley Hollister, a family practice physician, has been working in Colorado Springs since 1991. A typical first-time visit to his office would include a review of your medical history and a physical exam. Hollister would perform lab tests, immunizations and other procedures, if needed.
His main objective, he says, is to effectively communicate with his patients to find out what their health goals are.
"Both the doctor and patient have specific concerns they want to address, and it's important that together we collaborate on what those goals are and work towards them," Hollister says. "It's not just the doctor telling the patient what to do, it's a team effort of working together for the best outcome and optimal health of the patient."
Treatment can range from prescriptions to recommending physical therapy for skeletal issues, to referring a patient to a specialist. Most MDs accept insurance.
Slightly less-known than allopathic physicians are Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs. Their education and training requirements are the same as those of MDs, but osteopathy emphasizes the role of the musculoskeletal system in overall health.
Dr. Linda Case has been practicing in Colorado Springs since the late 1980s, and says many DOs like to incorporate the term "holistic" when treating patients.
"Philosophically and stylistically, we like to think of ourselves as treating the whole patient," Case says. "We believe the body has an inherent ability to heal itself as long as it's structurally sound."
According to Case, many DOs practice hands-on treatment, which is referred to as osteopathic manipulative therapy.
"For example, if someone has a bad sinus infection, we might do some cranial techniques, which would include applying pressure to the sinus points on the face," she says. "We might do some lymphatic drainage techniques in terms of lymph nodes on their neck as well."
Although DOs write prescriptions for medications, they often stress preventative measures, including maintaining good relationships, to get to the root of the problem. DOs typically accept insurance.
Most people are least familiar with NDs, or Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine, but their field emphasizing holistic and nontoxic approaches to treatment is growing in popularity. NDs must attend four years of undergraduate school, four years of naturopathic medical school, and complete an internship. Residency is required in only some states, and Colorado is one of dozens of states that don't require licensing.
Dr. Mark Cooper is a Montana-licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist who has been practicing naturopathic medicine in Colorado Springs since 1999.
According to Cooper, naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, including the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, genetic, environmental and social factors that might cause health concerns.
"It is an avenue of trying to get people to look at their health or absence of it in a different way," Cooper says. "Many times, people don't realize that what they're doing day-to-day can negatively affect them."
An hour-long visit for a new patient would involve getting a detailed patient history along with vitals, and perhaps blood work. Cooper employs a Meridian Stress Assessment device, which uses electrical output to evaluate the 14 body systems and to help determine what parts of the body are injured or ill.
Although Cooper cannot write prescriptions, he does recommend supplements to his patients.
We asked the three physicians we interviewed how they would treat a 35-year-old man who, despite being in overall good health, has contracted the flu. Each emphasized prevention the MD urged vaccination, and all three agreed on the importance of washing hands often, eating well and avoiding overexertion but their approaches to treatment differed.
Ripley Hollister, MD: "First we'd do some sort of rapid flu test, which would be a throat or nasal specimen to test for it. We then might prescribe an anti-viral medication like Tamiflu. This is good to treat it, or for prevention if they've been in close range with anyone who has the flu. If they're having lung-related problems, we might prescribe something like Mucinex and Tylenol or Advil for aching."
Linda Case, DO: "The flu is a self-limiting illness, and if you're an overall healthy individual and you take it one day at a time, you'll get better in most cases. There are things like Tamiflu that I recommend occasionally, but I try to avoid these because sometimes the side effects are worse than the illness. I just go by the good old-fashioned way of staying in bed, drinking lots of liquids, eating chicken soup, taking Tylenol for body aches or maybe a prescription cough medication if there's respiratory problems, to make them more comfortable."
Mark Cooper, ND: "When someone comes to me with the flu, I really like to treat it based on the individual that has it. The complexity of what causes the flu is as complex as the number of people who have it. I like to talk to the person first, to try to find the reason why they might have the flu. Maybe it's because they're run down from work, or because they haven't been eating well, or because they're really stressed. I like to ask them, 'What have you been sleeping like? What have you been eating like?' and go from there."