How To Stay Away From Colds & Flu
by Gay May Lian
Sneezing, having a runny nose, and suffering from a sore throat are common symptoms of a cold or flu, and many of us have, unfortunately, experienced them before.
Find out what causes the common cold or flu, how to tell them apart, and ways to protect yourself against them.
Causes of colds and flu
More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold. With no vaccine available for colds, our body has to learn to fight against these viruses. And when our body’s immune system fails to protect us, we catch the cold.
On the other hand, the flu is only caused by influenza virus types A, B and C, and flu vaccines are available to provide you with some level of protection against the virus.
Differentiating between a cold and the flu
Both colds and flu present symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and cough, and laboratory tests may be required to determine if a person has the flu or a cold. However, if you look deeper into the symptoms, you will realise some differences between them.
In general, symptoms of the flu include a high-grade fever, body aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. These symptoms are intense with a sudden onset.
Conversely, colds are generally self-limiting and do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia and bacterial infection.
Treating colds & relieving the symptoms
Though there are vaccines to prevent the flu, there is no cure for the common cold. That means, how well your body fights off the virus depends entirely on you!
Here are some ways to help your body get well faster:
- Get plenty of rest, especially when you have a fever
- Avoid alcohol
- Drink lots of fluids, such as water and clear soups
- Stop smoking if you’re a smoker, and avoid second-hand smoke
- Use saline irrigation products to loosen mucus and moisten the skin of your nose
- Consult a pharmacist for medication to relieve the symptoms of the common cold
You can also approach your pharmacist for advice on self-treatment for colds. After evaluating the severity of the condition and taking into account any drug allergies or medical conditions you have, your pharmacist may recommend non-prescription medicines.
These medicines include:
- Treats symptoms like sneezing, and runny and itchy nose
- Decongestant drops or sprays
- Alleviates nasal obstruction when used over a few days
- Lozenges and sprays
- Provides pain relief for sore throat and reduces inflammation
- Cough syrups (e.g. anti-tussives and mucolutics)
- Relieves dry, itchy cough or phlegmy cough
- Treats fever and body aches
When to consult a doctor
You should consider seeing a doctor if the cold lasts for more than 10 days. You should also see a doctor is you experience any of the following.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Unusual symptoms such as stiff neck or vomiting
- Have a temperature higher than 38.3°C
- Produce green or bloody mucus
- Feel pain and pressure in the face or around eyes
How to protect yourself from colds or the flu
Reduce your risk of catching a cold or the flu by washing your hands frequently to stop the spread of germs! Eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep also play an important part in boosting your immune system.
And if you can’t wait to avoid the undesirable flu, get vaccinated today! The influenza vaccine exposes your immune system to the flu virus so that your body will build up antibodies to protect you from getting the flu.
Do note that people who have received flu vaccination may still get the flu, but will usually suffer milder symptoms compared to those who have not been vaccinated.