As the mercury begins to drop, more people will move inside, exposing one another to a variety of bugs that can cause both the common cold and the flu. Although we tend to use those terms interchangeably, they are not the same. Colds are a nuisance, but the flu bug can be downright nasty.
First, you can improve your odds of staying healthy by getting a flu shot. The vaccination will prevent most people from getting the flu. Even if you still get sick later, studies show that those who get the flu shot will have a milder case.
Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu is important. Here's how.
Whether it's a cold or the flu, the symptoms may start the same with a scratchy throat and runny nose. But after that, what bugs you can be a clue to whether it's a cold or the flu. Cold symptoms can include things like sneezing, a cough and fatigue, maybe a fever. And yet the symptoms will only last a few days maybe up to a week. In spite of that, even though you're uncomfortable, you will be able to function at home or at work. Also, remember that the first 2-3 days of a cold will be contagious.
But if it's the flu, the symptoms will come on faster and be more severe. Sore throat, congestion, cough, fever, headache, body aches, and fatigue. These symptoms get better after 3-5 days, but the recovery back to normal can take 2-3 weeks. And it's also important to remember that during this time, you won't feel like doing anything at home, at school, or at work. This is probably a good thing for the rest of us because like viral infections, you're contagious for the first several days with the flu.
Another key to dodging colds and the flu is to avoid contact with those who are ill. The viruses are spread through droplets from the saliva of infected individuals who sneeze or cough in your direction or get their secretions such as mucus or saliva on you.
So, keep your distance Don't eat and drink after or hug or kiss someone you suspect may be ill. For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell and this is the President's Prescription.
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