There’s a feeling of excitement as temperatures drop and the holidays approach. Unfortunately, the winter season can also usher in illness. For some, ‘tis the season to be sick.
If you feel yourself slipping under the weather, you may wonder what exactly you are battling and how best to treat it. Cold and flu are the most common ailments this time of year. Here are a few tips for telling the difference between the two:
A good rule of thumb for categorizing cold symptoms is that they generally occur from the neck up. Colds rarely involve a fever or body aches. Instead, they are characterized by a runny nose, stuffed-up nose, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, and watery eyes.
The bad news about colds is that there is no treatment because they are the result of a virus. Thus, medication such as antihistamines and decongestants can help relieve your discomfort, but the virus itself must simply run its course. Getting plenty of sleep may help reduce the duration of a cold. Adequate hydration and nutrition are also useful. To prevent a cold, make sure to wash your hands frequently and stay rested.
Flu manifests with many of the same symptoms as colds, such as nasal congestion and coughing. As opposed to colds, though, flu frequently causes fevers, chills, and achy muscles. Most cases of the flu can be managed by resting and hydrating, but if the following symptoms occur, you may need to consult a doctor:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- A high fever (not just a low-grade)
- Throwing up
While flu often goes away on its own in several days, flu can sometimes hang on and morph into bronchial infections and pneumonia. As with a cold, flu is caused by a virus, so there is no quick treatment. If symptoms become troubling, you can address them with medications such as antihistamines or decongestants (for runny or stuffed-up noses) and fever reducers and pain relievers for fever and aches.
To prevent flu, get your flu shot. Wash your hands frequently and clean the surfaces around you with anti-bacterial solutions.