This is a synopsis of an article published in TIME.
The weather is finally cooling off and you know what that means — the flu season and cold season are upon us. So, how do you tell them apart? And, what are the do’s and don’ts for treating these unwelcome autumn guests?
The influenza virus causes the flu, which is easily preventable with a flu vaccine or treatable with anti-viral medications. However, colds are much more difficult to treat. The rhinovirus is the most common culprit of the cold, but there are over 200 viruses that can cause a cold. Once you’ve caught a cold there is no immediate cure; only time, rest and symptom-relievers will get you through.
If it’s the flu…
The flu, according to Dr. Steven Lamm, MD, internist and faculty member at NYU School of Medicine, says that the flu “hits you like a bolt of lightning. You’ll likely run a fever of above 101F, and you’ll be flat out.” Common symptoms include chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and tightness of the chest. You could experience a cough or runny nose, but upper-respiratory symptoms are more common with a cold.
If you suspect you have the flu, see your doctor as soon as possible. In order to combat the flu, anti-viral medications (Tamiflu and Relenza) must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Taking anti-virals will reduce the severity of symptoms and lessen the chance of developing pneumonia or bronchitis.
Experts warn not to overlap over-the-counter drugs or take double-doses of a particular ingredient, as it could cause a toxic reaction. They advise not take antibiotics, as the flu is not bacterial, it is viral. Although, if someone develops an infection caused from prolonged illness, antibiotics may be necessary.
If it’s a cold…
“The symptoms are predominantly above the neck. You may feel achy or have a fever, but these will be much less severe than with the flu,” explains Dr, E. Neil Schachter, MD, author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu.
Colds are insidious; they gain strength slowly over days. If you experience sneezing, a runny nose, sore throat, persistent cough and congestion, you are most likely the victim of a cold.
When you first feel signs of a cold, vitamins can help. Take 250-500mg of Vitamin C daily to reduce the length and intensity of the cold. Zinc lozenges taken consistently over a 48 period may help, too. Antihistamines can dry up sinuses and for a natural remedy — saline nasal spray relieves congestion as well. Even though decongestants can provide some relief, each time you use them, you’ll have to take a higher dosage to experience the initial relief. Instead, drink plenty of fluids and rest, rest, rest.
Read the full article here.
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