Do I Have A Cold Or The Flu?
| Is It A Cold Or The Flu?
On average we catch 2 to 5 colds a year. Fall and winter are the busiest seasons for bugs. Over 200 types of virus can cause the 'common' cold, but rhinoviruses are the winners. These cook best at 33°C (91°F), which is the ambient temperature in the nose, so no wonder they prosper. Other likely candidates are coronavirus, adenovirus and the influenza virus. So how do you catch a cold or flu? Science suggests these bugs grow best in fall and winter temperatures, and as we tend to cluster indoors when the temperature drops, we provide an environment in which they party. Physical and psychological stress are also implicated as they lower our immune response to infection (read about the effects of stress on the body for more about this). To physically 'catch' a cold or flu, you need to inhale infected mucus or touch an infected surface and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Beware - a simple sneeze can contain up to 100,000 virus particles and can travel 9 meters (30 feet). In turn, these little particles can live on both the skin surface or the surface of an object for up to 3 hours.
So Which Do I Have?
Chances are that if you have a fever of 38°C (100°F) or more, sweats, aches and pains, a headache, a dry cough, a sore throat and fatigue, you probably have flu. You feel jet lagged, and you wouldn't look twice at an attractive man on the bus. On the other hand, if you feel bunged up but don't have a high temperature, you are likely to have what one billion Americans suffer from annually... a cold.
Comparing Symptoms Of Colds And Flus
Tips For Avoiding Flus And Colds
If You Have A Cold Or Flu: Treatment Tips
2009 saw swine flu strike with a vengeance, and we went from an outbreak - a large collection of cases in a locality - to a pandemic, where a disease is widespread across a country or a continent. Just like regular flu, swine flu proved to be very contagious and without cure.
Antiviral treatments such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were given in an effort to alleviate symptoms and in many cases shorten the illness by one to two days. Although these drugs have not been proven to prevent flu, they are sometimes given to people who have been in contact with the virus to improve their defenses. An inhaled antiviral agent called zanamivir (Relenza) can be used for pregnant women as oseltamivir may damage the unborn baby.
Because these drugs have been used on a widespread basis, there have been concerns that swine flu could become resistant to them and render them useless. For this reason, they should not be taken unless it's pretty certain you have swine flu. The doctor can diagnose it by means of a swab, but the results are not instant, so the decision of whether to treat often has to be made on the spot during the consultation.
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