Common cold, commonly known as nasopharyngitis, is caused due to viral infection particularly in the upper part of the respiratory system. It begins with a running nose along with cough, sore throat, cough and fever. On the other hand, influenza, popularly called ‘the flu’, is caused by RNA viruses affecting the respiratory tract. The symptoms are similar to that of common cold but may also develop headache, nausea, vomiting at times. Influenza infection results in severe illness in comparison with other viral respiratory infections including common cold.
Cold is frequently found among all groups and it is often difficult to distinguish between cold and flu. Sometimes cold which continues for a longer period might turn up to be flu with severe complications. High temperatures and chills are seen in patients suffering from flu. Both cold and flu are contagious infections and children have a higher risk of catching them rather than adults.
Common cold is often creates and irritation with the following symptoms:
- High fever up to 102 degrees
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Continuous sneezing
- Moist eyes
- Congestion of the nasal passage
Symptoms of flu need to be analyzed carefully in order to avoid severe infection.
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in arms, legs and body
- Extreme tiredness
Infections of cold are spread through different viruses. Rhinovirus results in producing severe cold. Coronavirus also causes cold most of the time in adults. The virus is mostly spread during winter and early spring. Exposure to cold weather might be one of the reasons but may not contribute to its severity. Stress, allergies, nasal disorders and menstrual cycles might help in causing cold.Even the immune system of a person plays an important role in reacting with the virus causing cold. When a person is affected by cold, the blood vessels open up and there is a rapid increase of mucus secretion. This causes a stuffy and runny sensation in the nose. The irritation in the nose created by virus and fluid cause sneezes and mucus in the lungs causes cough. Cold virus often spreads from one to the other by touch.
On the other hand, flu is a contagious disease that spreads either by inhaling from an infected person or touching the secretion of infected person. Influenza virus types A, B and C and cause the flu. However, viruses A and B are largely responsible for flu epidemics. During winter, being indoors for a longer period, people inhale the flu virus easily as it spreads faster. Flu can be transmitted from a flu affected person to a healthy person simply by touch. The virus spreads in the air and enters the body through nose or mouth.
Both are contagious infections and can be transferred by tiny droplets while sneezing or by hand contact of the affected person to a healthy person.
Common cold can be diagnosed easily if the symptoms are closely observed. A runny nose and sneezes can be detected in a person affected by cold. It can be commonly treated at home and might the doctor’s help in severe conditions.
Nevertheless, diagnosis of flu is not as simple as common cold. Continuous cold and fever with chills can be taken seriously as flu which needs antiviral medication within the first 48 hours. A flu test may be conducted reveals the presence of influenza virus. Worst conditions of cold and flu require utmost attention where supervision of the physician becomes essential.
In case of common cold, complete rest to fight away the virus and consumption of fluids would be the most suggested treatment. Gargle with warm salt water and using aspirin to relieve fever would be a part of the treatment. Medications prescribed by the doctor may help in thinning the mucus and reducing congestion. It is better for a cold affected person to avoid smoking and alcohol. Steam inhale with medicated sprays would be proposed for a quick relief from cold.
Treatment for flu might include medications as suggested by the physician. Use of vaporizers and decongestants might help in reducing the symptoms of cold and flu. Antiviral drugs reduce the intensity of flu attack. Oxymetazoline hydrochloride nasal sprays are recommended to reduce congestion in adults. Zanamivir and oseltamivir can be given within 48 hours for about a period of five to seven days to prevent flu infection.
Cold and flu might last only for a few days. In worst cases, they might lead to some secondary infections and become complicated. Common cold might sometime result in fever and body aches. But complications such as sinus, asthma, bronchitis and ear infections are likely to occur because of cold. Sinus infection is caused when there is a collection of mucus in the sinus cavities. Severe cough with cold or flu might lead to serious illness like pneumonia. Patients suffering from flu may develop high fever, bad cough and bacterial pneumonia wherein breathing becomes very difficult. Flu infection might also worsen heart diseases, asthma or diabetes.
It is better to consult the health care provider if there is relatively no improvement in the symptoms of cold or flu to avoid complications.
Garlic can be made into a paste or soup and consumed to reduce the severity of cold. Ginger boiled in water can serve as the best home remedy for cold. Turmeric mixed in hot milk can reduce cough and cold. Inhaling steam with turmeric helps in relieving stuffy nose. It is advisable to avoid meat, milk products and starchy foods. To prevent cold and flu one must manage the stress levels and take a lot of rest. Sleep and rest is extremely necessary for a patient with cold or flu. Gargling water with a little salt would reduce throat pain. Keeping the room free from dust and avoiding exposure to dirt would also act as a preventive measure for cold or flu.
However, the best methods to prevent cold or flu is to take fresh air by going on brisk walking, managing stress free environment and enjoying sound sleep. Leaving the body to rest would not only heal infections but also increase the functioning of the immune system. A careful nourishment of the body can prevent such infections.
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