Colds and the Flu

Both colds and influenza (the flu) are caused by virus infections spread from one person to another through hand-to-hand contact and exposure to spray from coughs and sneezes. Both infections are generally confined to the respiratory tract including the nose, throat, and lungs.

Symptoms of The Common Cold

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Low fever

Symptoms for the flu are the same as for a cold, however, there is likely a higher fever and body pains more severe than with a cold. Also, the flu comes on very quickly, like a truck, whereas a cold may come on gradually over a couple days before it peaks at its worst.

Both infections usually last for about 3 to 5 days, but not likely for more than a week. There may be a couple days of weakness and recovery following that, especially with the flu.

Risks

Most bouts with colds or the flu can be recovered from without lasting ill effects. However, these viral infections can sometimes cause secondary infections spreading to the middle ear, sinuses, larynx, or to other more serious respiratory disorders. Complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia can develop as a result from influenza.

Treatment

Both the flu and colds need to run their course and can not likely be improved by a physician (unless further complications or secondary infections develop). OTC antibiotics can not affect the viruses causing these illnesses. You should stay in bed and rest, especially until your fever returns to normal. Drinking plenty of fluids can help avoid the dehydration caused by fever and also help loosed mucus. Gargling with warm salt water can ease a sore throat. Medications such as decongestants or pain relievers can not cure colds or flu, but they can help relieve some of the symptoms of the common cold.

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