This is the time of year when it would seem that so many persons around us are coughing, sneezing and stuffiness. Not every sniffle and runny nose means you have the “cold”. Sinus issues, allergies namely hay fever (allergic rhinitis), the common cold, and influenza are frequent diagnoses made by the family doctor. In fact, because these ailments are so prevalent, the general public now has access to a wide range of over the counter (OTC) medications that can bring some relief to the symptoms.
So what is the Common Cold?
Here is a staggering fact about the common cold. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold. The rhinovirus is the usual bug that is responsible for spreading the cold. The cold is self-limiting and considered harmless. The symptoms include the runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and itchy throat. The virus infects the lining of the nasal passages and throat. This infection can also affect the sinuses. The cold can last for a week. Because there are so many strains of viruses responsible for the common cold, medical scientists have still not been able to produce an effective vaccine to prevent the cold. Children can have up to seven episodes of cold throughout the year whereas for adults with stronger immune defense there can be up to three episodes. Over age sixty there may be a single episode for the year.
It is that time of the year, usually during the cooler months September to March, that there is an outbreak of flu cases. There are many different strains of flu viruses and every season the flu vaccine has to be formulated to be effective for the predominant viruses in circulation.
Influenza viruses can cause mild to severe symptoms. These viruses affect the upper respiratory tract that is the nose, throat etc. and can also spread to the lungs. The symptoms include cough, sore throat, headache, fever and body aches. Persons at greater risk of contracting the flu are young children, the elderly, women who are pregnant and patients with chronic diseases. Influenza is responsible for pneumonia and many deaths annually.
Key Differences between the cold and Flu
- Different groups of viruses cause the cold infection and are distinct from the group of flu viruses.
- The complications of an influenza infection can lead to death whereas the common cold is usually considered to be mild and self-limiting
- The flu virus causes fever, headache and body aches. Cold symptoms are mainly runny nose, sneezing and stuffiness.
Tips to prevent and control the Cold and Flu
- Wash hands frequently especially after being out in public places. Just remember that hundreds of persons use public transits and hold onto the rails, seats and poles. One ill person with the cold or flu leaves a trail of infectious viruses behind.
- Avoid touching the face especially eyes and nostrils. Carefully discard of used tissue.
- Get the flu shot as you stand a greater chance of avoiding the infection.
- Increase consumption of citrus and other fruits rich in vitamin C.
- Herbal and other natural remedies such as echinacea, lime and honey.
- Aromatherapy using menthol and eucalyptus used as rubs or in diffusers help to relieve nasal congestion and soothe coughing.
- Anti-viral preparations are available for the flu. Do not take antibiotics as they have no effect on viruses.
- Drink lots of fluid. Stay home and rest.
You will need to see a doctor if the symptoms have worsened and there is sustained high fever, marked weakness, discolored mucus or shortness of breath. The flu can be life-threatening for high risk person and should not be taken lightly.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
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