Colds and Flu: What are the Differences and How Can You Stay Safe?
One of the most confusing things about becoming sick with an upper respiratory illness such as a cold or the flu is that they begin in a similar manner. However, each requires a different treatment in order to limit the illness and get over it as quickly as possible.
A cold is caused by becoming infected with a rhinovirus. Like many viruses, it mutates. There are hundreds of strains of the common cold virus and any cold virus can be around at any time. New strains can form all the time, making it difficult to build up immunity to them.
Viruses have no cure, but you can treat the symptoms as best you can to make you or your loved ones more comfortable if they come down with a cold.
Typical symptoms of a cold include:
- Congestion (head and/or chest)
- Runny nose (stuffiness from swollen sinuses)
- Watery eyes
- Coughing-it can be a dry cough, or one that is productive, that is, produces phlegm in order to get congestion out of your body)
- Itchy nose, eyes and throat
- Fever (more common in children)
- Sore throat
The flu is caused by becoming infected with one of the strains of the influenza virus.
The flu generally comes on more quickly than a cold. The symptoms seem to hit all at once, and will usually be more severe than when you catch a cold.
The typical symptoms of flu include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Nausea, vomiting
- Diarrhea (most common in children)
While the first four symptoms are common to both flu and colds, they are likely to be more intense when you have the flu.
Flu symptoms are strong right from the onset, and they usually run their course in about a week. Colds usually only last a few days.
Since colds and flu are both viruses, antibiotics will have no effect.
An over the counter cold remedy will help dry up the nasal congestion but try to avoid products with a lot of alcohol or caffeine in them.
Look for a product which does all that you need in one pill or bottle. You’ll save money, and also be able to avoid accidental overdose. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is a common component in an array of cold remedies but taking too much can lead to liver damage.
You can also use inhalants such as Vicks® VapoRub®, and Olbas oil if you want to use a natural remedy. Afrin nasal spray can also help a great deal and lasts for 12 hours.
The best way to prevent colds and flu is to wash your hands often and not share personal items like cutlery, towels and so on. Avoid contact with those who are ill. Stay at home when you are sick. Keep the communal areas of your house clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Taking these precautions may keep you from getting sick at all or can highly minimize your chances so you can have an enjoyable winter season.