What are cold and flu?
The common cold and the flu may seem similar at first. They are both respiratory illnesses and can cause similar symptoms. But different viruses cause these two conditions.
Common cold, also known simply as a cold, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that primarily affects the nose. The throat, sinuses, and voice box may also be affected. Signs and symptoms may begin less than two days following exposure. They include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and fever. People usually recover in seven to ten days. Some symptoms may last up to three weeks. In those with other health problems, pneumonia may occasionally develop.
On the other hand, influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. Symptoms can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and feeling tired. These symptoms typically begin two days after exposure to the virus and most last less than a week. The cough, however, may last for more than two weeks. In children, there may be nausea and vomiting, but these are not common in adults.
How common are cold and flu?
These two are really common. Infants, the elderly, and people with certain diseases or weakened immune systems are the most at risk.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of cold and flu?
Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, which usually goes away after a day or two. Nasal symptoms, runny nose, and congestion follow, along with a cough by the fourth and fifth days. Fever is uncommon in adults, but a slight fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.
Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough. Swine flu in particular is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
When should I see my doctor?
Early diagnosis and treatment can stop cold and flu worsening, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this condition.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes cold and flu?
A cold is an infection which can be caused by a virus known as the “rhinovirus.” ‘Rhino’ comes from the Latin word for ‘nose’ as it tends to affect the upper respiratory tract including the nose. Strangely it has nothing to do with cold climates. It comes from other people’s germs. It’s just when it’s cold, people tend to be closer together, and more likely to share germs.
Flu is a highly contagious virus, called influenza. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, the virus will travel on droplets through the air where it can be easily picked up by the next person.
What increases my risk for cold and flu?
Factors that may increase your risk of developing flu and common cold include:
- Living conditions: People who live in facilities along with many other residents, such as nursing homes or military barracks, are more likely to develop these conditions.
- Weakened immune system: Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids and HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system. This can make it easier for you to catch them and may also increase your risk of developing complications.
- Chronic illnesses: Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems, may increase your risk.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are more likely to develop complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Women who are two weeks postpartum are also more likely to develop influenza-related complications.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How are cold and flu diagnosed?
Based on your symptoms, your doctor can diagnose flu and cold. If your doctor suspect that you may experience this condition, the first step of this process is to examine your body. After this, it is necessary that your doctor will likely order some tests such as blood test.
How are cold and flu treated?
Usually, you’ll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat flu and cold. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication. If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications. Antiviral medication side effects may include nausea and vomiting. These side effects may be lessened if the drug is taken with food.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cold and flu?
You will need a lot of rest, plenty of fluids and time to allow your cold or flu to run its course. But there are always some extra things that you can do to help minimize your discomfort.
- Keep the air moist with a humidifier to ease the throat and nose discomfort.
- A soothing, warm liquid such as a chicken soup can calm a sore, scratchy throat.
- Wash your hands often to avoid spreading infection. If washing is not possible, keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your handbag can be useful.
- Take care of your symptoms with over-the-counter medicines
Summer or winter, a cold or flu can take its hold on you. Although there are a few things you can do to prevent a cold and flu.
- Start with some healthy habits
- Get a flu vaccination to reduce the risk of infection.
- Wash your hands and home surfaces regularly.
- Eat foods with lots of vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system.
- Make exercise part of your life to keep your immune system fighting fit.
- If you do get a cold or flu, you can help prevent others from catching it.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. The germs travel through the air.
- Wash your hands regularly to kill any bacteria that may cause infection. Or reach for that bottle of hand sanitizer in your handbag.
- Throw away used tissues.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cold and flu. http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/flu-guide/flu-emergency-when-to-call-doctor#1. Accessed Mar 21, 2017.
Cold and flu. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20248141. Accessed Mar 21, 2017.
Cold and flu. https://www.codral.com.au/cold-and-flu-symptoms. Accessed Mar 21, 2017.
Review Date: March 14, 2017 | Last Modified: April 14, 2017