Cold or flu – clues to help you de­cide

Central Leader - - News -

One is the most com­mon ill­ness in New Zealand; the other is a se­vere and some­times deadly in­fec­tion but for most of us work­ing out which is a cold and which is flu can be tricky.

While they’re both res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions, there are some im­por­tant dif­fer­ences be­tween colds and the flu. Flu is likely to: • De­velop sud­denly • Be a moderate to se­vere ill­ness which lasts seven to 10 days

• Be ac­com­pa­nied by a fever, usu­ally high

• Cause shiver­ing, mus­cle aches which can be se­vere, a headache and a dry cough which be­comes moist. Colds are likely to: • De­velop more grad­u­ally

• Cause a mild ill­ness with a mild fever, runny nose, a mild headache and some­times a cough but mus­cle pain is un­com­mon.

Chances are, if you have the flu you won’t have the en­ergy to get out of bed and will feel very ex­hausted but with a cold you’re likely to feel tired but to keep go­ing about most daily tasks.

Both colds and flu are caused by viruses, or­gan­isms which en­ter and in­habit liv­ing cells and make nu­mer­ous copies of them­selves.

They then spread through­out the body, in­fect­ing other cells and caus­ing ill­ness.

An­tibi­otics are pow­er­less against cold and flu viruses but they may be pre­scribed if a pa­tient could also have a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion.

There are steps you can take to feel more comfortable when you have a cold or the flu.

Rest, prefer­ably in a warm and re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment, is im­por­tant and it will help your im­mune sys­tem to fight off th­ese bugs.

Those with the flu, es­pe­cially, are urged to take time off work to re­cover and avoid spread­ing the virus to oth­ers.

Drink­ing plenty of flu­ids, like wa­ter or di­luted fruit juice, helps pre­vent the mem­branes in your nose and throat dry­ing out.

It also re­places fluid lost from your body if you have a fever which is mak­ing you sweat.

Fever, aches and pains can be con­trolled with aspirin or parac­eta­mol for adults. It is im­por­tant to note that aspirin should not be given to chil­dren un­der the age of 18. Some peo­ple find that breath­ing in hot steam, ei­ther in the shower or from a bowl, can help re­lieve a blocked nose.

You should al­ways see your doc­tor if your symp­toms do not im­prove af­ter a few days or if more se­vere symp­toms de­velop. Th­ese in­clude in­creas­ing breath­ing prob­lems, cough­ing up yel­low or green phlegm, se­vere headaches or de­hy­dra­tion.

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