Know the facts of cold and flu
It’s the season we dread; the time of year that many individuals don’t feel well. We’re tired, sneezing, coughing and have a stuffy nose. Is it a cold or flu? What is clear about both, is that each makes a person feel miserable.
The symptoms of the cold and flu are closely related and differ only in the degree of severity. To distinguish if you’re dealing with the flu versus a cold, says infectious disease expert Susan Rehm, M.D., learn the F.A.C.T.S and understand the acronym: fever, aches, chills, tiredness and sudden onset. These are the symptoms of the flu.
Influenza targets the nose, throat and lungs, and transmits via inhalation or contaminated surfaces. The symptoms of the flu include fever, aches, chills and tiredness, and occur suddenly. It can bring on headaches, sore throat and coughs and result in several days in bed. It can lead to bronchitis, sinus or ear infection, pneumonia and even hospitalization. Older age increases the risk of complications.
To prevent the flu, get the annual flu shot. The medical community suggests the shot is of particular importance to the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with lung conditions like COPD and asthma.
If you have the flu, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and take over-the-counter medicines. If treated early, prescription antiviral medication may shorten duration.
If it’s a stomach flu, you experience bouts of vomiting and diarrhea or gastroenteritis. The flu targets the intestines rather than the lungs.
A cold targets the nose and throat and transmits through inhalation or contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and congestion. Other indications are sore throat, cough, aches and pains and fatigue.
The result is a constant discomfort for one to three weeks.
Prevent a cold by washing your hands frequently and keeping your hands away from the face.
To treat, try zinc lozenges. Vitamin C may shorten its duration. Over-the-counter cold medicines can help relieve symptoms.
If symptoms linger, it could signal pneumonia.
The flu may lead to a lung infection and become dangerous if you have a chronic condition or are very old. Call your doctor if you cough up yellow or green mucus, are short of breath, breathe rapidly, feel pain when inhaling or have a persistent high temperature.
The Centers for Disease Control claims the seasonal flu viruses are detected year-round in the United States. Flu viruses are most common during October through February and can stretch into May.
You can monitor flu activity in the U.S. by visiting www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. You’ll see when and where the flu exists, track related illnesses, where it’s circulating and measure its impact on hospitalizations and deaths.