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Fall and winter are upon us once again, and with them the most common illnesses of the season: the cold and the flu.  People often use the terms cold and flu interchangeably; however, these are two separate conditions.

The common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus.  It is usually not accompanied by a fever but it does affect the nose, sinuses, throat, larynx, and often also the trachea and bronchi.

Influenza, or flu (grippe, grip), is also a viral infection affecting the respiratory tract but in addition is accompanied by fever, general malaise, headache, muscle pain, stomach pain and such.  In severe cases, it may even result in death.

 

Causes

There are over 200 different types of viruses which can cause a cold.  Most commonly, you can get a cold by touching your nose, eyes or mouth after handling a contaminated object.  However, cold-causing viruses can also be transmitted through the air.  Exposure to chilly outdoor air will not make you more susceptible to get a cold as is often believed, on the other hand, emotional distress and excessive fatigue actually may.  On average, an adult may experience between 3-6 colds in a year, while a child may have as many as 8-10.

Many different types of influenza viruses belonging to either Influenza A or B groups may cause the flu.  The flu is very contagious and spreads easily from person-to-person (e.g. through handshakes or the sharing of utensils) or via air droplets (containing a virus) that contaminate objects.  Flu epidemics often occur about every x number of years and usually affect the entire country; occasionally (about once per decade), the flu spreads across all continents.

 

Signs and Symptoms

Cold:

  • Sneezing and runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Possible fever ( 39C or lower)
  • Headache

Flu:

  • Sudden fever (up to 40C)
  • Fatigue, chills, headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Sneezing, runny and stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Nonproductive cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

 

Treatments

Conventional medicines, herbs, supplements and other forms of treatment can only help in alleviating the symptoms of both, the cold and the flu, but cannot treat or cure either condition.

The following is recommended for both the flu and cold:

  • Drink a lot of water and other fluids – water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey will help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration
  • Salt water – a salt-water gargle (1/2 teaspoon salt in 250 ml of warm water) can relieve a sore throat
  • Saline nasal sprays – will help you combat stuffiness and congestion.  Unlike decongestants, saline sprays don’t lead to a rebound effect – a worsening of symptoms when the medication is discontinued.  They are safe and nonirritating, even for children.  

 

To be continued…

Until next time…Stay healthy

 

Katarzyna

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