Flu season typically begins when the weather gets cold and peaks in mid to late winter. Most of us confuse the flu for a cold and vice versa. It is important to know the difference AND know how to treat both. The flu, more scientifically known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby.
Remember when mom told you to cover your mouth when you cough? She was right. Flu viruses spread in droplets caused by coughing or sneezing. Basically the virus needs to pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth.
The common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Often it starts with a “tickle” in the throat, coughing, and sneezing. Be patient it takes TIME to treat a cold and it has to run its course. Cold symptoms typically appear in 2-3 days from exposure and will last 1-2 weeks. There is NO cure for the common cold.
In addition to being in striking distance from that sneezing and coughing coworker, if you’ve touched a contaminated surface like a telephone or a door knob the viruses can pass from your hands to your nose or mouth. And the risk of infection gets even greater in highly populated areas like schools, buses and crowded living conditions. Remember when mom said to wash your hands? Well, mom knew what she was talking about.
The flu is more dangerous than a common cold, but both need attention that can typically be remedied at home. Most people do not need medical attention from a doctor or the hospital if you follow some easy treatment and prevention tips. Children, the elderly, and people with specific health conditions are the most susceptible to complications from the common cold and the flu.
Flu treatment tips:
- Get a flu vaccine.
- Take an anti-viral medication (e.g. Tamiflu) within 24-48 hours of symptoms onset.
- Do NOT take antibiotics. The flu is a viral NOT bacterial infection.
- Use an over the counter medication (e.g. pain reliever, cough suppressant, decongestant). These do not require a prescription and will help to relieve discomforts like pain and fever.
- Wash your hands frequently and use a tissue when blowing your nose.
Cold treatment tips:
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- Use an over the counter medication (e.g. pain reliever, cough suppressant, decongestant). These do not require a prescription and will help to relieve discomforts like pain and fever. Make sure to read the label and know what symptom you are trying to treat (e.g. cough, fever, etc.).
Wash your hands frequently and use a tissue when blowing your nose.