As the year comes to a close and temperatures begin to drop, the common cold and influenza also begin to flex their muscles. And perhaps when you read the title of this post your thought was “but I thought the cold and flu are the same thing”. Newsflash: they are not.
The cold and flu keep people away from work each year and results in over $10 billion in healthcare costs each year. It’s an expensive problem that we should all care about.
In this post, we will discuss the difference between a cold and the flu and how you can keep both of them at bay during this season.
Although they share similar symptoms and can be difficult to differentiate without a visit to the doctor, as we mentioned above, a cold and the flu are two different conditions.
Similarities between a cold and the flu
- They are both caused by a virus.
- There is sneezing and coughing with both conditions
- They both affect the respiratory tract.
Differences between a cold and the flu
This is where it gets tricky. Cold and influenza share very similar symptoms. Sneezing and coughing is common with both. However, the following distinguish them.
- Headaches are more common with influenza than they are with the cold.
- If a person is experiencing fever in addition to the coughing and sneezing, it is very likely they are experiencing the flu rather than a cold.
- Body aches are more common with the flu rather than a cold.
- Fatigue and overall weakness is more common with the flu.
- Sore throat is more common with the flu.
- The cold is usually not associated with other serious health issues. Influenza on the other hand can lead to serious complications like pneumonia, inflammation of the heart lining (myocarditis) and ear infections if it is not treated properly.
- You can receive a vaccine for the flu each year. You don’t receive vaccines for the common cold. Each year the flu vaccine is different because the flu virus is different. Thus if you received a flu vaccine last year, it is still important that you get one this year.
For more information on how to combat the flu this season, check out our recent post on 5 ways to combat the flu this season.
10 things you can do to keep both the cold and flu at bay this season
Some of these are mentioned in the post referenced above but here are more weapons you can wield against these two respiratory conditions this fall.
- Get the flu vaccine if you haven’t already. Getting a pneumococcal vaccine for older adults especially (65 and above) is also key.
- Consume more vitamin C. Citrus fruits, apples, broccoli, kiwi fruit and peaches are just a few examples of foods that are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is well known in the literature to help boost the immune system and fight infections.
- Exercise. Exercise boosts your immune system and makes it more adept at fighting off infections.
- If you feel sick, take the day off. It is a kindness to yourself and your co-workers.
- If you are feeling symptoms of the flu, it is alright to call your doctor and/or go in if necessary.
- If you do get the flu, make sure to drink a lot of fluids. Your body makes a lot of mucus when you are sick with the flu or cold and this can dehydrate you. Thus, replacing those fluids is essential.
- Don’t ignore popular home remedies like chicken soup. An interesting study showed that chicken soup was anti-inflammatory which means when you have a cold and you drink chicken soup, it is effective in helping your immune system reduce inflammation.
- Dress up warmly as the season changes. Both the cold and the flu show up as the weather is getting colder. Staying warm will go a long way to help you fight these respiratory conditions.
- Drink more hot fluids. It is getting colder, so it just makes sense to stay warm by drinking more hot fluids.
- Get plenty of rest. A lack of sleep can compromise your immune system and make it weak. One way to ensure your body is ready to fight off invaders is to keep your body well-rested.
Did you find this post helpful? Share it with someone else who might be looking for ways to keep the cold and the flu away this season.