The following article is a guest post.
Because many of the symptoms overlap, it is not easy to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.
But it’s important to know the difference because unlike a cold, the flu can have serious complications, especially for children and older people.
So, whereas it may be a good idea to simply try and ride out a cold, if you have the flu, that’s a very dangerous game to play. That’s especially true if you are an at-risk person or you sometimes come into contact with such people.
One quick way to tell the difference between a cold and flu is that cold symptoms usually begin subtly and worsen over time, and the flu often hits like a ton of bricks.
Another common distinction is that high fever usually accompanies the flu, so keep a good thermometer handy. The best ones are usually the medium-sized ones (not too big and not too small) that are easy to use and have large screens.
The rhinovirus causes most colds. One day soon, researchers may develop a vaccine, because the different types of rhinovirus share a common protein. But for now, the sheer number of serotypes makes a vaccine impossible. Scientists have already identified more than 150 distinct strands, and the number grows almost constantly.
Rhinovirus colds are incredibly contagious, especially during the first two to four days after exposure. Typically, the virus spreads through airborne contact or through contact with infected surfaces. The virus survives best in dry air and thrives in the hot and moist areas of the nose and throat.
While there is no way to prevent a cold, there are a number of treatment options.
Some are better than others. Zinc lozenges can significantly reduce the length of these viral infections if they’re taken within twenty-four hours after symptoms begin.
There are also a number of over-the-counter medicines, such as decongestants and antihistamines, which can make the symptoms less intense.
There is not much evidence in support of natural remedies, such as Vitamin C and echinacea. However, they are beneficial and probably have a substantial placebo effect (you feel better because you believe in the remedy).
If a cold does not go away within seven or ten days, it’s probably a good idea to see a doctor. Because there may be a more serious underlying problem, such as sinusitis or bronchitis.
It’s impossible to completely prevent colds, but it is possible to greatly reduce your chances of infection. Avoid people who are sick. If you are sick, avoid other people. Frequent hand-washing with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is good as well.
About the Flu
Colds can strike at any time of year, though they are more prevalent during certain times of the year. But the flu is typically a seasonal illness, occurring mostly between mid-fall and late spring.
Many of the symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose, cough, sneezing, and sore throat, are similar to cold symptoms. People also catch the flu in much the same way as they catch colds.
But the similarities largely end there.
- Most flu victims are contagious from the day before symptoms appear to about seven days after they get sick. Which is a significantly longer period that a cold virus.
- There is a flu vaccine which effectively prevents the virus from making people sick even if they are exposed.
- Over-the-counter remedies are largely ineffective, but there are some anti-viral treatments. And they are quite effective if taken within forty-eight hours after symptoms appear.
If symptoms get substantially worse or you have trouble breathing, call a doctor straightaway before the flu becomes pneumonia.
Aside from the vaccine, avoidance and hygiene are the best ways to keep from getting sick. So practice the same habits as the ones discussed above.
Moreover, it’s also important to develop healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep, eat a variety of foods that include fruits and vegetables. Exercise consistently, and avoid stress as much as possible.
Most people have extremely busy schedules, so even a few days of cold or flu usually have significant consequences. Fortunately, there are some ways to protect both you and your family, and there are also some ways to minimize the impact of getting sick.