It is that time of the year….cold and flu season. Flu season typically begins when the weather gets cold and peaks in mid to late winter. Most of us confuse the flu for a cold and vice versa. It is important to know the difference AND know how to treat both.
The flu, more scientifically known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby.
Remember when mom told you to cover your mouth when you cough? She was right. Flu viruses spread in droplets caused by coughing or sneezing. Basically the virus needs to pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth.
The common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Often it starts with a “tickle” in the throat, coughing, and sneezing. Be patient it takes TIME to treat a cold and it has to run its course. Cold symptoms typically appear in 2-3 days from exposure and will last 1-2 weeks. There is NO cure for the common cold.
In addition to being in striking distance from that sneezing and coughing coworker, if you’ve touched a contaminated surface like a telephone or a door knob the viruses can pass from your hands to your nose or mouth. And the risk of infection gets even greater in highly populated areas like schools, buses and crowded living conditions. Remember when mom said to wash your hands? Well, mom knew what she was talking about.
The flu is more dangerous than a common cold, but both need attention that can typically be remedied at home. Most people do not need medical attention from a doctor or the hospital if you follow some easy treatment and prevention tips. Children, the elderly, and people with specific health conditions are the most susceptible to complications from the common cold and the flu.
COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to a cold or the flu. It is important to be vaccinated and get tested if you are not feeling well. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
For more information about COVID-19, including where to get vaccinated, please visit the CDC's website.
Flu and COVID-19 treatment tips:
Cold treatment tips: