This time of the year is the month when we bid good bye to summer and welcome the rainy season. Oftentimes it is during this transition period that we see common illnesses of the repiratory tract and we cannot differentiate the symptoms of a common cold or flu. The presenting smyptoms are quite similar even the initial medications are the same. So if you ask someone do you have a cold or flu, we often get varying responses mainly because it is difficult to differentiate this two entities unless a physician is consulted, then we can draw the demarcation line. So to help you recognize one from the other, read on and see the difference…
The common cold is our most ubiquitous illness. On average, adults have two to four colds a year, and some children have 8 to 12. People who work in schools or health setting, or who have small children, are more likely to catch multiple cold each year.
Symptoms may vary, but the typical cold starts with a sore throat, sneezing, nasal congestion, and runny nose, frequently followed by a cough that can linger for a week to 10 days.
More than 200 different viruses can cause cold symptoms, but the most common are in the rhinovirus famliy and are highly contagious. They are often transmitted through the air when someone who has a cold expels them by sneezing or coughing and someone else inhales them. They can also travel from one person to another by direct contact with fingers, tissues, or other objects that can harbor virus. Even though so many different viruses are involved, they all produce similar symptoms, which is why all are classified as a single illness. Colds can occur at any time of the year.
There are no cures for the common cold, and prescription drugs are no more effective than those you can purchase over the counter. A doctor’s care is usually not necessary unless complications develop, or you have a chronic disease such as asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, or diabetes that can be worsened by a cold. The most common complication is a secondary bacterial infection of the ears, throat, sinuses, or lungs. If this should occur, antibiotics ma be necessary. Generally, you should see a doctor if symptoms do not improve in seven to 10 days. Go sooner if your breathing is difficult or painful or you have persistentfever and chills, an earache, a severe headache, enlarge and tender lymph nodes in the neck, or other severe or unusual symptoms.
Contagious respiratory infection. Some people mistakenly refer to a cold or any upper respiratory disorder as the flu. But in reality, the flu is more severe than cold. Not only it can lead to pneumonia, but some types of the disease are even fatal.
Your own observation of symptoms is usually enough to tell you that you have the flu, particularly if there has been an epidemic in your area. Flu symptoms are similar to those of a bad cold-fever, sore throat, muscle aches, running nose, cough, and last longer. If you consult a doctor, she will do a physical examination and possibly order blood tests and a sputum culture. A chest x-ray may also be ncessary if the symptoms suggest the presence of flu related pneumonia.
Although they are unlikely to shorten the course of the flu, a member of alternative therapies may alleviate the symptoms of the illness.
Therapists recommend placing 5 drops of cinnamon oil in 1 tablesppon of water and inhaling the scent three times a day; they also advcise messages or baths using lemon, pine needle, or rosemary oil.
For the achiness of flu, take a hot shower or bath. Also, try soaking your feet in a basin of hot water for 20 mintues twice a day.
Bed rest, while your body fights the virus, is the best medicine. If you have a fever, drink extra fluids, including fruit juice, tea, and broth to prevent dehydration. Extra fluids also thin any lung secretions. For a sore throat, try gargling with warm, double strength tea, or warm salt water. Acetaminophen, aspirinm nasal sprays, and decongestant may relieve minor discomfort. Howeverm do not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 18 who has viral infection because it increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome ( a rare, potentially fatal disorder tha tcauses brain inflammation and swelling and severe liver damage).
So the next time you encounter a cold or a flu, remember DOC which stands for:
D - Don’t work, get a good rest.
O - Over the counter medicine is good enough to treat initial symptoms like running nose, fever and body malaise.
C - Consult your doctor, if symptoms persist.