So you wake up sneezing, coughing and are achy and feverish. You don’t want to move you ache so much. Do you have a cold or the flu?
A cold is generally more mild than the flu and while having a cold can make you feel bad for up to 7-10 days, the flu has potential to make you feel very sick for anywhere from a few days to weeks. Both a cold and the flu can result in secondary bacterial infections asthma or pneumonia (especially in those with weak immune systems), but the flu is more likely to result in hospitalizations from complications of dehydration or pneumonia.
Colds and the flu are generally spread from infected people through the air and through close personal contact such as shaking hands, touching a doorknob or changing a diaper. You become more at risk for infection if sneezed or coughed on, you are also more at risk if you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth with hands that have not been thoroughly washed.
What are common cold symptoms?
Usually, colds start with a sore throat or runny nose. The sore throat may seem to first. Nasal symptoms such as runny nose or congestion occur and may be accompanied by a cough. While fever is uncommon in adults, a low grade fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.
With a head cold, the nose has a watery secretion initially, later these secretions may become thicker and darker. Dark mucus is natural and does not usually mean you have developed a secondary bacterial infection of the sinus.
There are hundreds of viruses that have potential to cause you cold symptoms making it very difficult to prevent getting the occasional cold. Rhinoviruses are the most common cause of the common cold. The average adult gets 2-3 colds a year. The average child gets 6-8 a year. Most people get colds in the winter and spring although colds can occur year round.
How long do cold symptoms last?
Cold symptoms last for about a 7-10 days. During the first three days that you have cold symptoms, you are contagious. This means you can pass the cold to others, so stay home and get some much-needed rest.
Sometimes you may mistake cold symptoms for seasonal allergies or a sinus infection. If cold symptoms begin quickly and are improving after a week, then it is usually a cold, and not an allergy. If your cold symptoms do not seem to be getting better after a week, it is time to find out from your doctor if it is allergies or sinusitis.
What are common flu symptoms?
The flu is usually more severe than a cold. Symptoms come on hard and fast and include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough. Some flu viruses are also associated with diarrhea and vomiting.
Flu symptoms will gradually improve over two to five days, although it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or longer. In the young, elderly, or people with lung or heart problems, complications like pneumonia are much more likely. If you notice shortness of breath, you should let your doctor know. Another common sign of pneumonia is fever that comes back after having been gone for a day or two.
Just like cold viruses, flu viruses enter your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth. Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you could be infecting yourself with a virus, which makes it very important to keep hands germ-free with frequent washing to prevent both flu and cold symptoms.
Usually, the time of year will give you some sense of what you’re dealing with. The standard flu season runs from fall to spring of the next year.
Can I prevent flu or cold symptoms?
Wash your hands! Rubbing the hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds helps to slough germs off the skin. If soap and water are not available use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. This is one of the key ways for viruses that cause colds and flu to enter your body.
Stay away from those who are sick.
If you have a cold stay home while sick
Avoid hugging, kissing and shaking hands with others
Move away from others before coughing or sneezing
Couch or sneeze into a disposable tissue then throw it away or cough or sneeze into your elbow while completely covering your mouth and nose
How to Feel Better
There is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Antibiotics will not help you recover from a cold. They do not work against viruses, and they may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them unnecessarily.
We carry Chinese formulas for Colds and Flu
First Defense Heat Style for sore throat, low grade fever
First Defense Cold Style for head colds/congestion without sore throat or fever
Xiao Chai Hu Tang (XCH) for colds/flu/diarrhea/body aches/fever