It Ain't Easy Bein' Sneezy: Cold and Flu Week

When you wake up sneezing, coughing, and have that achy, feverish, can't move a muscle feeling, how do you know whether you have cold symptoms or the flu?

It's important to know the difference between flu and cold symptoms. A cold is a milder respiratory illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.

The common cold, including chest cold and head cold, and seasonal flu are caused by viruses. Use over-the-counter cold medications to relieve symptoms including sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and cough. Flu symptoms are similar, but include fever, headache and muscle soreness.

10 Tips to Survive Cold and Flu Season.


1. Wash your hands. If you get a cold or flu this year, you may have your dirty hands to thank. Many viruses are spread that way. You pick up germs on your fingers and then get them in your mouth or eyes.

2. Get your flu shot. You may think of the flu as a minor problem, but it can be severe, sidelining you for days. It can even be dangerous, especially for young children, older adults, and pregnant women. One little shot may save you and your family a lot of misery. It’s a myth that a flu shot can give you the flu.

3. Be prepared for cold/flu season. Before you battle cold and flu germs, make sure you have the supplies you need. Stock your medicine cabinet with any drugs you use, like pain relievers or decongestants. Don’t forget tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer. Make sure your thermometer battery still works. At the supermarket, load up on fluids, herbal tea, and simple comfort foods like chicken soup for when you're sick.

4. Pay attention to your symptoms. See above.

5. Get the right medications. There are lots of cold and flu remedies to choose from at the drugstore. Be smart about the ones you use.

6. Skip the antibiotics. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics will not help. They work only with bacterial infections. What's more, using antibiotics when you don't need them increases the risk of breeding dangerous germs that are resistant to drugs.

7. If you are sick, stay home. When you're sick, stay home, rest, and recover. It's better for you and everyone around you.

8. Use throwaways to curb germs. When someone in your family or a roommate is sick, switch to disposable products in your bathroom until they get better. Swap your cloth hand towel for paper and your bathroom cups for paper or plastic. It's a simple way to stop the spread of germs among family/dorm room members.

9. Drink extra fluids. Drinking extra fluids when you're sick will help thin mucus, letting your sinuses drain better. Water, broth, and sports drinks are good choices. Alcohol isn't. Hot drinks -- like herbal tea -- will also warm your airways, helping relieve congestion.

10. Ask about antivirals. No drugs can cure the flu, but some may help you get better faster. Prescription antiviral drugs -- Relenza and Tamiflu -- can blunt the symptoms and help you recover. The catch: You need to start taking them within 48 hours of your first symptoms.  Talk to your doctor to find out more. Antivirals may be right for you if you’re at high risk of having complications from flu.


Last Updated: 11/18/2013