By: Amanda Blount
Did you wake up feeling a little off or just downright terrible? Are you wondering if you have the flu or a common cold? It is the time of year where common colds and the flu seem to pop up everywhere with more children missing school and adults missing work. It is important to know the difference between the flu and common cold symptoms so you know exactly what you’re tackling.
The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms and can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. These symptoms usually include:
- Sore throat
- Running nose
- Watery eyes
- Body aches
The flu symptoms are worse than the common cold and intensifies through its duration. Being tested usually must be done within the first few days of illness and can tell if a person has the flu. Common colds and the flu symptoms are mainly the reaction to the body’s response to the infection and vary depending on which virus causes the infection. Symptoms usually occur 24-72 hours after infection and tend to be most contagious during the first two to three days of having symptoms. The average duration of common cold or flu symptoms is seven to ten days, though symptoms may be present for up to three weeks.
How Do I Catch It?
The flu and the common cold can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, shaking hands, and other personal contact or airborne by breathing in the virus from a cough or sneeze.
Here are a few ways to help reduce your risk of catching the flu or common cold:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, also teaching your children the importance of hand-washing.
- Properly disinfect your home, especially when someone in your home is sick. Periodically clean children’s toys.
- Use tissues when coughing or sneezing and discard immediately after, then washing your hands. Teach children to sneeze and cough into the bend of their elbow or using a tissue.
What Can I Do If I Have It?
There is no cure for the common cold or flu and is a self-limited illness that will resolve spontaneously with time and keen supervision. Over-the-counter medicine and home treatments are directed at relieving the symptoms related with the common cold or flu while the body fights off the infection.
In addition to hand washing to prevent flu or common cold symptoms is also getting a flu vaccination to prevent seasonal influenza. Peaking seasons for seasonal flu activity is between late December and early March. The flu vaccine helps the body to develop antibodies and provide protection against the flu within two weeks of receiving. For children receiving the vaccine it is given in two doses delivered one month apart.