Is it a cold or is it the flu?

So you’ve woken up coughing and sneezing, your body aches, your throat is sore and just don’t feel like you can get out of bed – how do you know if you’ve got a cold or the flu?

While both colds and flu are respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses, it can be difficult to tell them apart based on your symptoms alone. But there are some ways to differentiate the two.

Cold symptoms

Colds are generally much milder than the flu and your sneezing and runny nose will likely clear up within a few days, but the flu can leave you feeling rotten and bedridden for up to a few weeks. The flu can also cause serious health problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalisation.

More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, however, it’s the rhinovirus that’s the most contagious and the one that leaves you sniffing and sneezing. With a cold, you’re likely to experience symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose and sore throat and you might also feel a little tired, achy and have a cough. These symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for hay fever or a sinus infection, but if they begin quickly and don’t last for longer than a week, then it’s a probably a cold. If your cold symptoms don’t improve after a week, you may have a bacterial infection and should consult with your doctor.

Flu symptoms

The flu is caused by three different types of influenza viruses that affect humans - types A, B and C. Symptoms will often come on quickly and can leave you feeling fatigued and achy with a fever and chills and sometimes some sneezing and a stuffy nose. A dry cough, sore throat and a headache are also common. Most flu symptoms should improve after a few days, but it can leave you feeling run down for a week or two. It’s more common to catch the flu during the colder months of the year (April to October), and once infected with the virus, you’re contagious for five-to-seven days after your symptoms appear. According to Professor Robert Booy, Director of the Immunisation Coalition, the 2018 flu season would “unlikely” to be as severe as last year.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with health conditions that weaken their immune systems, are at particular risk of developing further respiratory complications from the flu. A fast-mutating and evolving strain of influenza A (H3N2) is considered the "worst kind" of flu and was blamed for the majority of reported deaths, mostly among the elderly in 2017. If you experience shortness of breath or a reoccurring fever you should consult with your doctor.

Prevention and cure- for both colds and flu

Good hand hygiene is one of the most important and effective ways to help prevent colds and flu. Cold and flu spreads when sick people cough or sneeze and send virus-filled droplets through the air, which can spread up to one metre. The virus then infects people in close proximity and enters the body through contact with our mucosal membranes (nose, eyes and mouth). The virus can also spread by hands contaminated with the influenza viruses, so keeping your hands germ-free will prevent infection.

Both a cold and the flu are caused by viral infections, so they can't be treated with antibiotics. If you find yourself struck down with a cold or the flu, then get lots of bed rest, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and eat some good nutritious immune-boosting foods like bone broths, garlic, turmeric, antioxidant-rich berries and leafy greens, to help get you through. Taking vitamin C and zinc supplements may also help reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.

Disclaimer – Please always seek the advice of a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

This article was brought to you by Fusion Health.

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