I woke up with a runny nose, slight headache, slight body aches and a couple of sneezes to accompany all of that. I’m thinking, “There is no way I can be sick. I must get to the office and work.”
So I grab a couple of over the counter ibuprofen tablets and a bagel with my coffee. Two hours later, I am feeling better. Thank goodness. For a moment I was thinking am “I coming down with the flu.” When I got home that night I took some vitamins, got plenty of rest and drank a lot of fluids. Luckily, I recovered quickly a couple of sneezes later, some really soft tissue for my nose and I was back in shape, but what if I didn’t.
Unfortunately, it’s that time of year when the sniffles are on the rise, but how can we be sure that it’s nothing more than just a simple cold or the influenza virus (flu). The good news is that for most people these are both self-limiting which means that they can be taken care without any prescribed medications and the treatment is usually conservative with bed rest, fluids and over the counter remedies. Most patients with the common cold also known as an upper respiratory infection a visit to their physician is not warranted, unless they are unusually ill.
Both a cold and the flu are caused by viruses. An upper respiratory infection can be caused by many different viruses whereas the flu is caused by the influenza virus. Both these infections can affect the nose, throat, ears or chest. Symptoms for both may include a runny or stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, general body aches, fever and/or headaches. These symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks.
The difference between the two usually lies in the severity of symptoms and the timing, the flu usually has a sudden onset and a cold usually has a more gradual onset. A cold is a minor viral infection with lesser symptoms whereas the flu is usually more severe, with higher fevers and more worsening aches and pains.
Viral infections in themselves usually resolve without the use of antibiotics, however as with any of these symptoms if they are prolonged and not relieved by over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen then a visit to the physician may be warranted to evaluate for a possible source of a bacterial infection such as an ear infection in which antibiotics may have to be prescribed. The physician can also evaluate for the influenza virus as well. It is just like undergoing a nose repair and nose job treatment and pricing, you have to carefully consider all the necessary factors before taking an action.
Unfortunately, since both the flu and a cold may present with similar symptoms the only way to know for sure is to have an evaluation done by your physician if any symptoms appears to have worsened over the course of a few days There are tests that can determine if you have the flu so I would recommend that if anyone develops any flu-like symptoms and are concerned whether it is more than just a cold then an evaluation should be done promptly by their provider, especially for individuals over the age of 65, anyone with a chronic medical condition such as asthma or diabetes, any pregnant woman as well as young children.
The flu can have mild to severe symptoms and usually most healthy people can recover well without any complications, however a more severe illness can cause death. So, again it is important if any symptom which may seem concerning be evaluated.
Simple steps can help in preventing the development of the flu or a cold such as:
– Hand washing
– Avoid contact with someone that is ill
– Maintain a healthy lifestyle
– Get the flu shot yearly