We hear it all the time – I have a “cold” or I don’t want to get the “flu.” What are these conditions and how can you recognize them in yourself or your family?
Colds and Flu are caused by viruses that infect your airways.
- Colds can range in symptoms but tend to involve stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, and possibly mild cough. With a cold, there could be slight aches and pains and possibly mild fatigue and weakness. Fever, headache, or exhaustion is rare.
- Flu is characterized typically by a high fever and chills, intense headaches, often severe aches and pains, intense fatigue and weakness that may last up to 2-3 weeks. Exhaustion is usually an early sign of the virus. A sore throat and cough are common symptoms. People can occasionally have stuffy nose and sneezing as well.
These viruses are transmitted to others through droplets released when coughing and sneezing or through nasal or oral secretions of an infected person. A sick person with a cold or flu is “contagious” as early as 1 day prior to showing symptoms and up to 5-7 days after the onset of symptoms.
The CDC estimates that 5-20% of the U.S. population will contract the flu virus annually. The severity of the illness can range from mild to severe. Most people who get the flu will have a mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than 2 weeks. Others will experience more severe symptoms leading to hospitalizations and even death.
So when you start to feel “sick” this year, hopefully, this guide will help you in assessing your symptoms. Always consult and discuss how you are feeling with your healthcare professional as well as consider the flu vaccine as prevention.