Combating Colds and Flus

Submitted by SharpHealth Team on Friday 8th October 2010
In this article
  • When is a cold a cold and a flu a flu?
  • Treating your symptoms at home.
  • When is it time to go to the doctor?
  • Preventing colds and flus.

It's not easy to escape getting at least one cold or flu each year: about 62 million adults get a common cold every year, and more than 100 million get the flu. Why are these illnesses so rampant? Mainly because they are so easily transmitted from one person to the next.

Colds and flus are viral infections spread from one person to another by a kiss, a handshake or a touch of a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob, telephone, coins or cash. The virus generally enters the recipient by way of his nose, mouth or eyes. Despite lingering myths, feeling cold, going outside with wet hair or having wet feet do not cause colds and flus. Want more info? Read on:

When Is a Cold a Cold and a Flu a Flu?

By analyzing your symptoms, it is relatively easy to tell the difference between a cold and flu. While both have symptoms in common, the additional symptoms associated with influenza ("the flu" for short) make it unmistakable:

Cold symptoms. A common cold can last anywhere between two to 14 days. The sufferer will have nasal congestion and sneezing. A sore throat and dry cough may also accompany the cold, as well as general aches, mild fatigue and a slight fever.

Flu symptoms. Influenza can linger for up to two weeks, with some sufferers experiencing fatigue for several weeks. Nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throat also accompany this illness, but the cough is usually deeper than with a cold. Many flu victims experience aching muscles, severe headaches and extreme fatigue requiring more sleep. But the fever and chills associated with this condition are the ringers that set it apart from a simple cold.

Treating Your Symptoms at Home

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Most common colds and some flus are not severe enough to require a visit to the doctor and can be treated at home. Call your physician and describe your symptoms. If he or she calls for home treatments, follow your doctor’s advice or check out these SharpHealth tips. You should feel well again in just a few days:

Drink fluids. The importance of drinking plenty of clear fluids can’t be overstressed. It is easy to get dehydrated during your illness, so replenish with as much water as you can consume.

Avoid tobacco. Stay away from cigarettes. They will aggravate your illness, and the smoke will have an adverse effect on your cough and chest congestion. For those diehard smokers who find it too tough to go cold turkey, minimize your smoking to fewer than five cigarettes per day.

Inhale hot steam. Boil some water or use a vaporizer in order to inhale the steam. The heat will often relieve your nose and head congestion and accelerate the healing process. Steam also helps to loosen mucous in the lungs. No time to boil water or buy a vaporizer? Consider sitting in a hot shower.

Rest. Nothing cures a cold or flu better than rest. Stay in bed for at least one full day if you can, and get quality sleep every night.

Use an over-the-counter medication. Over-the-counter decongestants, gargles, lozenges, pain relievers, and cough syrups can all temporarily relieve symptoms. Select a medication that targets a particular symptom rather than an all-in-one preparation. Make sure you read any warning labels and follow instructions precisely.

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Consider vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are considered helpful in curing colds and flus. When taken in large enough doses (anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 milligrams per day — way more than the amount in o. j.), vitamin C is said to prevent and cure the cold. Zinc is the element in chicken soup that helps mom make you feel better. Additionally, herbal remedies, such as the combination of echinacea and golden seal, are also regarded as remarkably curative. Ask your physician about helpful vitamins, minerals and herbals and their appropriate dosages — and stock up before you get sick again!

When Is It Time to Go to the Doctor?

For a cold. If you still have a cold after two weeks, go to the doctor. If you start to experience earaches, sinus pressure and/or a fever higher than 100 degrees, you'll also need to make an appointment. These symptoms could indicate an ear or sinus infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

For a flu. If you have trouble breathing, the flu may have spread into your chest, and you'll need antibiotics. Additionally, if you are still experiencing a high fever after three days, it's time to get to the doctor.

Sometimes a flu improves but then worsens suddenly with chills, chest pain, difficulty breathing and/or yellow-green mucus. This could indicate bacterial or viral pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

Preventing Colds and Flus

The good news is that both colds and flus can be prevented. Check out these SharpHealth tips:

Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often and well. When washing, scrub them with soap and warm water for a full minute. Keep hands away from your face, and avoid touching anything used by anyone suffering a cold or flu — this includes telephones, handrails and doorknobs. This could get pretty tricky around the office. Many SharpMen avoid constant hand washing by keeping anti-bacterial wipes or gels in their desks.

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Eat and sleep well. Colds and flus inevitably strike the weary — SharpMen who are tired and those who don't maintain their bodies in tiptop condition. Don't give the virus a chance. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Eat regular meals. Get six to eight hours sleep every night. Don’t forget to exercise regularly, but skip a day if you feel you are coming down with something — your body may need a rest.

Take vitamins. If you feel you are not getting enough vitamins in your regular diet, supplements are an excellent way to boost your body's defense system. Vitamin A is the best vitamin for defending against viruses and vitamin B complex helps the body fight stress. Above all, though, vitamin C builds the immune system.

Reduce stress. Stress lowers your body's ability to combat illness. Learn to cope with stress and relax, and your body will be better equipped to deal with viral infections.

Consider a flu shot. The flu vaccine can guard you against the infection. It’s best to get the shot in October or November. While it may cause you to feel ill the evening or day after the treatment, SharpMen prone to the flu, guys who work in hermetically sealed office building (i.e., windows don’t open), those around children or SharpMen over 50 should consider this preventive measure.

This article last updated on Friday 8th October 2010
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