Is it a Cold or Influenza?
Both a cold and the flu are viral infections that cause similar symptoms. Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them, based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.
A cold is only a minor viral infection of the nose and throat, while the flu, on the other hand, is usually more severe, with symptoms that include the sudden onset of high fever and the addition of aches and pains.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health
problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
There's no cure for either a cold or the flu. Antibiotics don't work against viruses
. All you can do to feel better, is treat your symptoms, while your body fights off the virus.
A cold develops gradually
. Initial symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, and chills are followed by coughing, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and nasal discharge. If fever is present, it will be low-grade (less than 101 degrees).
The common cold is caused by more than 200 different viruses. There are currently no antibiotics that are effective against colds. Medications can help relieve symptoms, but there is no cure.
The most common ways a cold is spread are through hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by touching a hard surface or object that a person with a cold has recently touched. A cold can also be transmitted through airborne particles through coughing or sneezing, but it isn't very likely, unless you have prolonged contact with someone with a cold.
To decrease your chances of exposure, wash hands frequently and try to stay away from anyone with a cold.
Once exposed, you are less likely to develop cold symptoms if you have a strong immune system. To keep your immune system in shape, try to keep a regular schedule with eight hours of sleep, a balanced diet, and exercise. Try to keep stress levels low, and DON'T SMOKE!
Non-pharmaceutical/ Alternative Therapies:
1. Get plenty of rest and avoid fatigue to help your body fight off the virus.
2. Fluids - Drink plenty of fluids (8-12 glasses a day). Fluids help thin secretions and keep membranes moist and more resistant to infection. Avoid beverages with caffeine as caffeine can dehydrate you.
3. Inhaling steam can help relieve congestion and cough.
4. Salt water
gargles can help relieve inflammation and pain of a sore throat. (Mix ½ teaspoon table salt
in 8 ounces of warm water
and gargle every two to three hours.)
5. Vitamin C- There are many conflicting theories as to the effectiveness of vitamin C in cold prevention and treatment. The severity of a cold may be limited by regular low doses (250mg per day) of vitamin C before you get a cold. Higher doses may have adverse consequences and are not recommended.
6. Zinc- Zinc gluconate lozenges have gotten a lot of publicity recently as a weapon against colds. The lozenges should be started as soon as the first tickle of a sore throat is felt to be effective.
When to see a physician:
- Symptoms last longer than 10 days.
- You have a severe sore throat, earache, or headache not relieved by Tylenol or ibuprofen.
- You have a history
of tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, kidney disease, or heart disease.
- You have severe chest pain or shortness of breath.
- You are coughing up thick, green or bloody sputum.
- You have swollen glands or hard sore lumps on the sides or back of your neck.
Flu / Influenza
The flu most often hits abruptly, with a sudden high fever, headache
, and dry cough . Other symptoms may include muscle aches, weakness, a sore throat, runny nose, and red, watery eyes that are sensitive to light.
Like a cold, the flu is a viral infection and there is no cure. It is spread through person to person contact and through sneezing and coughing. The flu can make people of any age ill. Most people are sick for only a few days, but some have a more serious illness which may require hospitalization.
Once a person gets the flu, not much can be done except to alleviate the symptoms. The best treatment is prevention by immunization.
Immunization is important for people with increased risk of complications and for those most likely to spread it. People who need the vaccine should get it every year. The vaccine starts to protect you after a week or two, and protection may last up to one year. Most authorities recommend getting the vaccine in October or mid-November. Because viruses change so often, it is possible to get the flu even if you have received the vaccine. However, people who do get the flu after being vaccinated usually have a milder case than those who did not get the vaccine. The flu vaccine will not cause the flu.
The most common side effects are soreness at injection site, fever, weakness, muscle aches, and allergic reactions. You should not receive the vaccine if you have an allergy to eggs. Check with your doctor or nurse before receiving the vaccine if you have had previous reactions to vaccines or if you have any chronic health
problems. You also should not be vaccinated during an illness involving fever.