Is it the Flu or is it a Cold? Does it matter?
The flu is similar to a cold. They are both caused by respiratory viruses. A cold being misdiagnosed as the flu is not a problem. The worst result of a cold is a bacterial infection of the ear or sinuses, treatable by antibiotics. But the flu can lead to potentially serious complications, like pneumonia. The FDA provides a list of symptoms to help you distinguish between the illnesses:
Common Cold symptoms – stuffy nose; sneezing; sore throat; mild to moderate chest discomfort and cough.
Usual Flu symptoms – Fever and headache; general aches and pains, sometimes severe; fatigue and weakness that can last up to 2-3 weeks; extreme exhaustion; chest discomfort and cough; and sometimes stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat.
The common cold is an expensive disease, striking some people as many as 12 times a year and leading to about 15 million days lost from work annually. The flu affects 20% to 50% of Americans each winter and is highly contagious. The flu virus can linger in the air for as long as 3 hours.
It’s true, we can put a man on the moon but science still has not found a cure for the common cold (or the flu). The only proven remedy is time. There are many over the counter products you can use to help you feel better. The best defense is taking the offense and aggressively avoiding the virus:
1) Washing your hands frequently is the single most effective means of avoiding a virus.
2) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. These are doorways for the virus to enter your system.
3) Drink liquids to help your mucus membranes remain moist and effective.
4) Avoid close exposure to those who are ill.
5) Clean surfaces that are frequently touched, like door handles, phones, keyboards, etc. When possible, avoid touching them with your hands at all. For example, press the elevator button with your elbow.
6) Get a flu vaccine.
If, in spite of your best efforts, a cold or flu virus sets up housekeeping in your body, your mother’s advice is still the best: Drink fluids and get plenty of rest, and remember chicken soup always helps! Contact your physician if your symptoms are severe or if you have any concerns.
For more information or questions about the Broward Health (North Broward Hospital District), please contact Charlotte Mather at 954-355-5180.