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Cold and Flu
What are Colds?
The common cold is, as the name suggests, very common and easy to catch. Most adults tend to catch a cold about three to four times a year. Unfortunately, children are much more prone to catching colds as their immune systems are vulnerable and they tend to spread infections more quickly in daycare and school settings.
Diagnosing a Cold
The first cold symptoms normally manifest themselves as feeling tired, sneezing, coughing and having a runny nose. A fever is not often present and if it is, it usually remains a low fever of just 1 or 2 degrees higher than usual.
While colds and flu can cause many of the same symptoms and are often confused, a cold is generally milder, while flu tends to be more severe and longer lasting. Nevertheless, both illnesses can cause children and adults alike to become miserable and grouchy.
What Causes a Cold?
How to prevent the common cold? Although we all wish we knew how to prevent the common cold, there are more than 200 viruses that can cause it which makes the task difficuly. The rhinovirus is the one most frequently responsible, and not surprisingly, it is also one of the most contagious.
A person with a cold is usually contagious for a day before they develop cold symptoms and for about five days after, and the virus is easily spread through sneezing, coughing, yawning and sharing objects handled by an infected person.
The good news is that colds are very rarely serious and are only of concern if they lead to secondary infections such as strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and croup.
Help for a Cold
Common cold symptoms are usually treated with bed-rest and symptomatic medication until the body’s own immune system overcomes the infection. We may like to know how to prevent the common cold, unfortunately, there are no allopathic medications to cure or prevent colds, and although antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, they are not effective against viruses and will only help in the case of secondary infections.
Antibiotics also rob the body of important ‘good’ bacteria. Children who become repeatedly infected due to exposure at day care centers may find themselves on one course of antibiotic after the other, often compounding the problem.
What is the Flu?
Flu is the abbreviated term for the influenza virus, which is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The virus affects the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs, and may also cause inflammation and pain in muscles and joints.
It is spread from person to person through airborne droplets when an infected person either coughs or sneezes. The influenza virus attacks cells in an uninfected person’s breathing passages and begins to replicate within six hours.
Diagnosing the Flu
Most people are familiar with the symptoms of the flu, but they can be mistaken for a severe cold in some cases. However, the flu infection is far more serious and can potentially cause severe health complications.
Symptoms include a fever, muscle aches, chills, headaches, coughing, congestion and extreme fatigue – although not all of these symptoms are present in every case. If your symptoms are severe, it is usually recommended that you seek medical assistance to obtain a proper diagnosis. In particular, the avian flu or bird flu cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone, so seeking medical treatment is necessary.
There are a wide variety of viral infections that may cause flu-like symptoms, therefore it is important to rule out other possibilities before obtaining treatment.
What Causes Influenza?
The flu virus attacks the body’s cells and mutates into different forms. Because of the numerous different strains of the virus it is not always possible to protect yourself against the virus. The influenza virus is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s secretions (such as by inhaling droplets when they have coughed or sneezed).
It can also be spread by handling objects such as crockery, cutlery, doorknobs, or telephone receivers that an infected person has been in contact with.