Can’t tell the difference between the flu and the common cold? Tabibi is here to answer all your questions and help you prepare for the upcoming flu season!
COMMON COLD VS. THE FLU
Both are respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms, but are caused by different viruses. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold with more intense symptoms that include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
Unlike the flu, colds generally do not result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. A key difference in treatment is that antibiotics have NO role in treating flu as they fight bacteria not viruses.
HOW IT SPREADS
The flu is a contagious disease, people with the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, they may still spread the virus to others.
WHY WINTER IS THE PRIME TIME FOR INFECTION
The virus lives longer indoors during winter, because the air is less humid than it is outside. Also, we spend more time indoors and have closer contact with each other, which makes it easier for the virus to spread.
PROTECTION AND PREVENTION
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season (usually late September). The vaccine has important benefits, it can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed days at work or school, and can prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. Those include: Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions such as asthma, heart diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, liver diseases or a weakened immune system, and people who are morbidly obese (BMI>40).
If you would like to take steps towards prevention, try to avoid close contact with sick people and also limit contact with others as much as possible while sick to keep from infecting them. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as germs spread this way. And finally, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
The flu is generally a self-limiting illness that resolves on its own, however following these tips can help you get better more quickly: Get plenty of rest and sleep. Stay warm. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relief aches and pains. Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear). Finally, there are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu. Ask your doctor if you need any.
This article was brought to you by Tabibi 24/7, Cairo’s leading family medicine & pediatrics group practice. Tabibi operates 24/7 and offers its services in the comfort of your own home or in one of its clinics.
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