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Cold Tips

In Infectious Disease

Cold or Flu? We finally answer the question!  

Do I have a cold or the flu? Do you ever get the urge to tear your hair out (or your nose off!) each time you ask yourself this? Even though both colds and flu are caused by viruses that attack the nose, throat and lungs, the two infections couldn’t be more different. It is important to know how to distinguish between them in order to take better care of yourself. Let’s get to the bottom of it!

 

Four ways to tell if it is a cold or the flu

Colds are usually respiratory diseases caused by viruses. They are common and don’t last as long as the flu. Adults can catch from 3 to 4 colds a year, while children can catch some 10 to 12, because viruses spread easily among them. Generally, colds don’t stop you from doing your activities, though they can certainly slow you down!

 

The flu, on the other hand, strikes suddenly. It is characterized by headache, chills, fever, intense fatigue, loss of appetite and muscle aches. You feel like you hurt all over. In some people, especially children, the flu can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Unlike colds, you rarely catch the flu: estimates are that people only get 1 or 2 during their lifetimes.

 

In order to clarify, here are a few ways to distinguish between the two infections:

1 – Colds are rarely accompanied by fever (if it is, it’s mild); whereas if you have the flu, it is often accompanied by a high fever.  

2 – The flu strikes suddenly, while colds start slowly with a sore throat and runny nose. Did you know that a stuffy nose is a symptom of a cold and not the flu?  

3 – Aches and pains are very rare with a cold; if you have the flu, they can be intense.  

4 – People with a cold can feel rather tired. In the case of the flu, the fatigue can be so intense that you can’t get out of bed.

 

Cold symptoms

Although cold symptoms are unpleasant, they are unfortunately part of the healing process and include:  

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Light to moderate cough
  • Mild achiness in rare cases
  • Normal or slight fatigue

 

Be careful! People with colds quickly become contagious. Often, they can transmit the virus even before symptoms appear.  

 

Fighting off and taking care of colds

There is no miracle cure to make colds go away faster. Once settled in, it takes 7 to 10 days, no matter what you do. However, the fact remains that over-the-counter medication for colds can help you soothe your unpleasant symptoms. Here are some tips to help you feel better:

  • Rinse your nose with saline solution.
  • Put a humidifier in your bedroom.  
  • Relieve discomfort with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice when it comes to taking over-the-counter medication.
  • Drink water and warm drinks to help relieve nasal congestion and sore throat pain.
  • Get some rest so that your body can gain strength and speed recovery.
  • Make yourself some chicken broth with a few garlic cloves.
  • Gargle with warm salt water several times a day to soothe sore throat pain.
  • Take echinacea to help the healing process.

 

An ounce of cold prevention is worth a pound of cure

Nothing is more frustrating than giving our cold to our partner or to little ones at home. Knowing that cold viruses are transmitted from person to person through contact with hands or by particles projected into the air by a sneeze or cough, it is best to avoid contact as much as possible. Here are a few preventative measures to stay safe from all the germs:  

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; these are the gateways for cold viruses.
  • Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away immediately afterwards.
  • Disinfect common surfaces in your house: door handles, light switches, toys, remote controls, kitchen counters, etc. At the office, be especially careful with your keyboard and your computer. And don’t forget your mobile phone. Bye-bye germs!!!
  • Avoid contact as much as possible with people who have colds.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soapy water. Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep an alcohol-based sanitizer handy.
  • Avoid sharing personal objects: glasses, utensils, water bottles, sheets, etc.  
  •  Learn how to manage stress better : periods of high stress weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to new viruses.

 

When should you seek advice?

Colds usually go away by themselves and do not require any medical attention. However, if you do not know where to turn when it comes to over-the-counter medication, take a moment to talk to your pharmacist. What’s more, if you are confused by certain symptoms, the pharmacist can explain them to you.

 

The same goes for the flu; it usually goes away by itself. However, if a high fever persists or if you have difficulty breathing, go see a doctor immediately. Flu symptoms can be dangerous for seniors, children under 2 and people with chronic conditions.

 

Finally, when it comes to colds, you have to let time work its magic. Your pharmacist can help you deal with your cold by proposing remedies suited to your needs. As well, if they see that something isn’t quite as it should be, your pharmacist can direct you to the appropriate resource.

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