by Jessica Woodruff

OUT IN THE COLD

Winter season comes armed with colds and flu

Know the difference between colds and flu
Is it a cold or the flu?

As you get out of bed the symptoms suddenly hit you, stuffy nose, scratchy throat and a pounding headache. But is this the flu or simple a case of the common cold?

It's not always easy to determine if you have a cold or the flu, but knowing the difference will help you choose the right treatment to get you on the mend as quickly as possible.


Common Cold
There are 100 different viruses that cause a common cold, which is exactly why it is dubbed "common". The general rule is that if you're suffering from symptoms from the neck up (a sore throat, runny nose and headache), you've most likely contracted a harmless cold.
Cold and the flu symptoms can sometimes overlap which is why it can be difficult to differentiate, but you needn't treat the common cold with antibiotics and symptoms are usually mild lasting up to two weeks.


Causes of the common cold are mostly through the rhinovirus which is passed through sneezing and coughing and is highly contagious.
When someone sneezes or coughs they send virus-filled droplets through the air and onto surfaces. If you inhale it or touch an infected surface (such as a doorknob or countertop), the virus can transfer, especially if you were to touch your eye, nose or mouth after.
Colds are common in the winter months due to most cold viruses thriving in conditions with low humidity. You can however catch a cold in any time of the year.


Symptoms of the common cold include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, slight fever (more common in children), cough, headache or body aches and mild tiredness. It is rare to have the chills or a fever when experiencing the common cold which is more a symptom of the flu.  Symptoms for a cold will also appear gradually whilst symptoms of the flu are almost immediate and has a rapid onset within three to six hours.


The flu
The flu or influenza is a more serious respiratory illness and if left untreated it can lead to pneumonia and other serious conditions.
Developing the flu happens pretty rapidly after exposure to the virus and will exhibit symptoms such as high fever, aches and pains as well as moderate to severe tiredness. It is possible to suffer from a cold and flu at the same time, in which case, you can expect to enjoy the unpleasant symptoms associated with a head cold.


A dry, hacking cough as well as moderate to severe chest pain is a dividing factor between the flu and a cold.  Mucus production is minimal with a straight influenza virus, unlike the common cold which may have a "producing" wet cough. The flu, however, like the common cold is viral and thus transferable from person to person through close proximity or by touching a surface that has come into contact with viral droplets.


Keeping germ and virus-free
Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often when in public areas, especially during flu season or in an area you know a sick person has been.  Doctors recommend you have a flu shot at the start of the season, however, if you already are sick it's not necessary to have the shot. Rather drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated and to loosen any mucus.


To control your symptoms and to feel better, decongestants and pain-relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be bought over the counter at pharmacies. Another vital way to feel better is to get plenty of rest as work can strain your body and prolong your illness.
Make sure you pay a visit to the doctor if you are at risk for complications from the flu.

These include:
People over the age of 50
Pregnant women
Children under the age of two
Those with weakened immune systems due to HIV/Aids, steroid treatment, or chemotherapy
People with chronic lung or heart conditions
People with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, anaemia, or kidney disease
People living in long-term care facilities

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