Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Understanding Influenza: Is it a Cold or the Flu?

Fighting a bug is never fun, but how can you get better if you don’t know what you’re dealing with? Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult, or even impossible, to tell the difference.
Influenza, or the seasonal flu, is a common and highly contagious and infectious respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Influenza viruses can change rapidly and that’s why there is a new flu shot made every year to protect against what is anticipated to be the three most common circulating virus strains. The flu shot is safe and is your best protection against influenza.
The common cold, on the other hand, is a mild infection of the nose and throat caused by a variety of viruses. Although a cold might linger, the symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, cough and sore throat, remain mild.

While some of the symptoms of influenza are the same as the common cold, the flu almost always presents with a sudden onset of cough and fever. It is also common to feel fatigue, muscle aches, a headache and a decreased appetite. Sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of the flu. The flu lasts longer and is more severe than a cold. And don’t forget influenza is contagious to others for 24 hours before you feel any symptoms and for an additional five days from the onset of symptoms.
High (37.7c – 38.8c)
Can last three to four days
General Aches/Pains
Often Severe
Fatigue, Weakness
Can last up to 2-3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion
Stuffy Nose
Sore Throat
Mild to moderate
Can become severe
Sinus congestion, asthma, earache
Bronchitis, pneumonia, possible hospitalization
Clean your hands often
Avoid sick people
Influenza vaccine once a year
Clean your hands often
Over-the-counter products to relieve symptoms
Over-the-counter products to relieve symptoms
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) within 24-48 hours after symptoms start
Some people shrug off the flu, thinking it’s a cold. If you have flu-like symptoms and are at greater risk of developing complications if you do get sick, contact a health care provider as soon as possible. See your family doctor about antiviral medication, get lots of rest, eat healthy foods and drink lots of fluids. Children under six years of age and pregnant women are just two examples of people at risk of complications. People with chronic conditions such as heart disease, liver or kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, asthma and chronic lung disease and those who are immunosuppressed can also be compromised and are at high risk for complications from the flu.
If you come down with the flu, please avoid visiting MAHC’s Emergency Departments unless your symptoms worsen. This is because many of our patients in the hospital are at greater risk of complications from the flu. They tend to be more susceptible to infection and that’s why we ask that you do not visit if you are ill with any respiratory illness.
Have you been vaccinated? It’s not too late. The flu shot is your best chance at protecting not only yourself, but your friends and family from infection. Keep in mind that it takes two weeks for the vaccine to offer you full protection. It’s also important to remember the age old rules for protecting yourself and others from influenza and the common cold:
  • Clean your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water;
  • Stay home if you feel unwell;
  • Stay at least six feet away from people who are ill;
  • Avoid touching your face;
  • Frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched items and surfaces;
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands.