What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
By Dr. Nnamani Sandra
The common cold and the flu may seem similar at first. They’re both respiratory illnesses and can cause similar symptoms. But different viruses cause these two conditions. Your symptoms help you tell the difference between them.
Both a cold and the flu share a few common symptoms. People with either illness often experience:
runny or stuffy nose
As a rule, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.
Another distinct difference between the two is how serious they are. Colds rarely cause other health conditions or problems. But the flu can lead to sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, and sepsis.
To determine whether your symptoms are from a cold or from the flu, you need to see your doctor. Your doctor will run tests that can help determine what’s behind your symptoms.
If your doctor diagnoses a cold, you’ll only need to treat your symptoms until the virus has run its course. These treatments can include using over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest.
Taking flu medicine early in the virus’ cycle may help reduce the severity of illness and shorten the time that you are sick. Rest and hydration are also beneficial for people with the flu. Much like the common cold, the flu just needs time to work its way through your body.
Influenza (the flu) is a common, infectious virus spread by infected droplets that enter another person’s body. From there, the virus takes hold and begins to develop. What are the symptoms of the flu? Here are some of the common symptoms of the flu.
The flu almost always causes an increase in your body temperature. This is also known as a fever. Most flu-related fevers range from a low-grade fever around 100°F (37.8°C) to as high as 104°F (40°C).
Although alarming, it’s not uncommon for young children to have higher fevers than adults. If you suspect your child has the flu, see your doctor.
You may feel “feverish” when you have an elevated temperature. Symptoms include chills, sweats, or being cold despite your body’s high temperature. Most fevers last for less than one week, usually around three to four days.
A dry, persistent cough is common with the flu. The cough may worsen, becoming uncomfortable and painful.
You may also experience shortness of breath or chest discomfort during this time. Many flu-related coughs can last for about two weeks.
These flu-related muscle pains are most common in your neck, back, arms, and legs. They can often be severe, making it difficult to move even when trying to perform basic tasks.
Your first symptom of the flu may be a severe headache. Sometimes eye symptoms, including light and sound sensitivity, go along with your headache.
Feeling tired is a not-so-obvious symptom of the flu. Feeling generally unwell can be a sign of many conditions. These feelings of tiredness and fatigue may come on fast and be difficult to overcome. How long does the flu last?
Most people recover from the flu in about one week. But it may take several more days for you to feel back to your usual self. It’s not uncommon to feel tired for several days after your flu symptoms have subsided.
It’s important to stay home from school or work until you’ve been free of fever for at least 24 hours (and that’s without taking fever-reducing medications). If you have the flu, you’re contagious a day before your symptoms appear and up to five to seven days afterward.
Treatment options for the flu:
Most cases of the flu are mild enough that you can treat yourself at home without prescription medications.
It’s important you stay home and avoid contact with other people when you first notice flu symptoms.
You should also drink plenty of fluids. This includes water, soup, and low-sugar flavored drinks.
Treat symptoms such as headache and fever with OTC medications. Wash your hands to prevent spreading the virus to other surfaces or to other people in your house. Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues. Immediately dispose of those tissues.
If symptoms become worse, call your doctor. They may prescribe an antiviral medication. The sooner you take this medicine, the more effective it is. You should start treatment within 48 hours from when your symptoms start.
Contact your doctor as soon as symptoms appear if you’re at high risk for flu-related complications.
These high-risk groups include. people with weakened immune systems women who are pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum people who are at least 65 years old, children under 5 years old (in particular, those under 2 years old), people who live in chronic care facilities or nursing homes people who have chronic conditions such as heart or lung diseases, people who are of Native American (American Indian or Alaska Native) descent, your doctor may test for the flu virus right away.
They may also prescribe an antiviral medication to prevent complications.
Remedies for flu symptoms:
Being ill from the flu is no fun. But remedies for flu symptoms are available, and many of them provide great relief.
Keep these treatments in mind if you have the flu:
Pain relievers. Analgesics like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often recommended to help ease symptoms. These include muscle aches and pains, headache, and fever.
Children and teens should never take aspirin for an illness. This is because of the risk of a rare, but fatal condition.
Vladimir Chimobi Ugwu reporting, Obinwannem News