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Cold Vs. Flu: The Battle

Posted Jan 19 2011 12:00am
It’s the bout of the season, and it’s fought at home, at work and in public.

In one corner, the symptoms are suddenly feeling feverish, having a headache, being achy, feeling tired and spiking a fever, sometimes with a scratchy throat.

In the other, the signs are gradually noticing a stuffy nose, frequent sneezing, and a sore throat coupled with a hacking cough. A fever rarely develops.

It’s the battle of the flu verses the cold. No one has to fall victim to a knockout punch from either.

“The flu is a respiratory virus that’s contagious,” says Peter Andrews, P.A., director of Employee Health at Sinai Hospital . “Those at high risk include the elderly, children, health care workers and people with some chronic health conditions. However, everyone is susceptible, so prevention is key.”

There’s no reason to let the flu give you a sucker punch. “The great thing is that the flu is most often preventable,” says Rose Wetzel, R.N., B.S.N., manager of Occupational Health at Northwest Hospital .

“For most people, the flu shot or nasal spray will prevent the virus. Both are quick and easy.” It takes about two weeks before antibodies develop protection against the virus. If you do come down with the flu, rest is the best way to get better, unless you are in a high-risk group.

In that case, check with your doctor immediately to see if medication to lessen the symptoms is needed. On the other side of the ring, the common cold, which can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, is usually mild and rarely turns into other serious health problems, such as infections or pneumonia. A fever is seldom associated with a cold. Again, because a cold is caused by a virus, medicine will only treat the symptoms, not provide a cure.

If you do get sick, stay home, rest, avoid contact with others and contact your doctor if necessary.

“One of the best ways you can avoid a cold and the flu is to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands ,” says Lucia Smedly, infection prevention specialist at Levindale and Courtland Gardens . “Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub for 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing, “Happy Birthday.”

Other ways to stay healthy?
  • Eat right and exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Stop smoking
  • Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin C or other supplements that can boost your immune system.

-Helene King
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