How do you know if you have a cold or the flu?
When you tell people you have a cold, are you sure it’s not flu? The symptoms are so similar.
However, there are some clues, so that you know which you have. If you feel unwell and slowly get sicker, be glad, you have the common cold. Glad, because a cold is always a milder illness, that will be over within three or four days. A flu on the other hand, usually strikes suddenly, and the effects can last a few weeks and result in serious health problems, like pneumonia. Fortunately, a cold rarely turns into the flu, because they’re caused by different viruses.
The common cold is called common for a very good reason. Almost everyone gets it. Perhaps not surprising, considering that there are 200 different viruses which can give you a cold. Most adults have two to four colds a year, while children can easily get six to ten. Ten!?
Colds are spread by touching an infected surface and then touching your nose or eyes. Or in some cases your mouth. Also by inhaling infected droplets in the air, when someone with a cold sneezes or coughs. Yes, exactly the same things to watch out for as the coronavirus.
Generally speaking, a cold will start anytime between one and three days after you came into contact with the cold virus. Then you will feel mild symptoms, like a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat and fatigue. Over the next couple of days these symptoms will peak, before subsiding. Most people are almost totally well again after five days, though some people might have a tickly cough or an irritating runny nose for up to two weeks.
The flu, or influenza, is highly contagious and can have different affects and symptoms. How long it lasts can vary from person to person. However, there are some typical recognisable stages. It’s spread in the same way as a cold, and takes hold around 48 hours after infection. You wake up feeling great, then suddenly it hits you. Headache, high fever, aching body, chills and extreme tiredness. If you have the flu, it’s advisable to call your doctor, especially if you have asthma or any other condition that puts you at risk. On day two you will feel even worse. If that wasn’t bad enough, day three is worse than that. For most people, the fourth day is when things start to improve. Be careful, many people feel a lot better and get up. Bad idea. Not only are you still contagious, but you can end up feeling even more ill later in the day.
If you’ve had your flu jabs and a healthy immune system, flu is nothing to worry about. For children it’s a different matter, their weaker immune system can lead to complications, even pneumonia. Children need to be taken to the doctor immediately, when you see the first signs of flu. This is also true for pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses, like asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
The five best ways to beat a cold or flu
Though, the cold and flu are different, the ways to relieve the symptoms and get better are the same.
- Stay hydrated. Water or warm water with lemon and honey, juice, warm liquids like a clear soup, all help. Avoid coffee or alcohol, as they will dehydrate you.
- Rest. It sounds so simple. It is!
- If you have a sore throat, you can sooth it by gargling with warm water and half a teaspoon of salt.
- Buy saline nasal drops from your local chemist, if you’re feeling stuffy.
- Always have plenty of tissues at hand. Kleenex Balsam Tissues contain a protective balm of Aloe Vera, Vitamin E and Calendula. The balm helps with irritation that can occur after rubbing your nose repeatedly.