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Posts tagged ‘the common cold’

Cold vs. Flu: What’s the Difference?

It’s that time of year again. Kids go back to school, adults go back to work after summer vacation, one person you know starts coughing and sneezing and before you know it you’re in bed with a fever, congestion, and aches all over. But how do you tell if you’ve caught the common cold or the flu. Here’s what you need to know about both.

How They’re Alike:

Rhinovirus, also known as the common cold, and Influenza, nicknamed “the flu,” are both respiratory illnesses. Both are caused by a virus, however there are over 200 known strains of the common cold and only a handful of known flu strains. Common symptoms of both illnesses are fever, congestion, runny nose, fatigue and muscle aches. The severity of each symptom depends on a variety of factors, such of what strain of virus you have, the time of year and your current health. And the big similarity these two share is the biggest downer: there is no known cure or drug to kill either one.

How They’re Different:

The flu is typically more severe than a cold, but there are such things as a severe cold or a mild flu. Typically, a runny nose, sore or scratchy throat and watery eyes are tall tell signs of a cold. Fevers in colds also don’t tend to exceed 102 degrees. The flu also has distinctive symptoms. Nausea, body aches or chills, sweating, loss of appetite and a fever greater than 102 degrees are more often seen in flu cases. Colds also tend to develop gradually, with one symptom transitioning to the next. Cold symptoms, such as mucus-y coughing, can last weeks. Symptoms of the flu often come on fast and all at once. The flu also doesn’t last as long. Most symptoms are gone within a week. It’s never too late to get a flu shot. This year’s vaccines are about 80% effective at preventing the flu. But common colds are a part of life, and there is no reliable way to prevent them.

How They’re Treated:

As I mentioned earlier, there is no drug or treatment that can cure either virus. There are drugs to alleviate flu symptoms, such as Tami-Flu, but the only way to fight the virus is the down and dirty way: with your white blood cells. There are a lot of things you can do to help your body in the fight though. If you feel yourself getting sick, immediately taking zinc tablets has been shown to cut the duration and severity of the virus. Make sure you are constantly hydrating. Your body goes through a lot of water fighting the virus. Constantly sipping on water is one of the best things you can do for your body. Taking Vitamin C, either by a supplement or a fruit smoothie or otherwise, can give your immune system a little boost. Take a hot shower or bath to alleviate muscle aches. Take over the counter meds such as cough syrup and decongestants as you need them, but avoid drowsy medication during the day. Avoid exercise, smoking, drinking, dairy products, and unneeded stress. And the number one thing you can do is rest. If you have a fever over 102 degrees for more than 3 days, unrelenting chills, or you are too nauseous to keep down food, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away. If your fever exceeds 104 degrees, you should visit an emergency room.

Nobody Nose the Common Cold Better than Your Nose!

It’s that time of the year! The temperature gets cooler, the leaves change color, and the common cold spreads like wildfire. But you don’t need to tell me that since I’m currently suffering from it! And this virus hit me HARD.

Commons cold truly are unavoidable because the virus is so adaptable. Humans have been suffering from the common cold since they first evolved into human beings. Adults catch a cold, on average, twice a year. Scientists believe there are over 200 different types of the common cold and during your lifetime you’ll probably catch around 60-80 forms of the virus. But as you age, you become more and more protected against it because you’ve been more exposed to it.

The most common, and complained about, symptom of a cold is nasal congestion. That’s how the common cold got its scientific name rhinovirus, rhino obviously meaning nose. There is a myth that cold weather is the most prominent cause for colds (hence the name cold), but that myth has little evidence to support it.

The production of mucus in the nose is a natural response to the common cold. Medication can help relieve a stuffy nose, but there’s no real where to cure it because there’s no way to turn off the body’s natural immune response. And even if there was, that would put you in more danger since you’d be susceptible to other infections.

The virus can be transferred in many ways. Hand to hand, mouth to mouth, doorknob to hand to nose, even just by breathing in the airborne virus. Depending on how the virus is transmitted, that’s how the symptoms start.

My first symptom was a sore throat (I’ll remember to rinse my mouth out with Listerine he next time I kiss a guy :P) and my congestion came a couple days later. For some people, the congestion comes first and then the infection moves down into the throat. It really all depends how the body responds to the virus.

When the virus is absorbed into the nose, the body release a chemical known as a histamine, that drastically increases blood flow to the nasal cavity. This histamine is also the same chemical responsible for congestion caused by allergies. The increase in blood flow causes the nasal tissue to swell, and the inflamed tissue produces massive amounts of mucus as a response.

Diphenhydramine is a popular anti-histamine that is used in most cold and allergy products. However, it can also make you drowsy so you should only take it at night and avoid driving. Saline rinses can also help relieve a stuffy nose, but those can be uncomfortable for those who haven’t tried it. Vitamin C is also shown to help reduce the duration of a cold. The real cure for a stuffy nose is time. Once your body clears the infection, the histamine response will go away.

Always remember that blowing out is better than sniffing in. It’s tempting to keep sniffing in the mucus, but mucus can build up and create pressure in the nasal cavity, which can result in sinus infections and sinus headaches. When you blow out your mucus, it should be a clear or slight green color. If your mucus turns a darker green or yellow, or there’s blood it in, you should see your doctor as soon as possible since it could be a more serious sinus infection.

Other symptoms of a cold include sore or scratchy throat, swollen glands, chest congestion, headaches, and mild fever. Severe colds often have fevers over 101.5 and can cause some nausea. If you have a fever, you should probably stay home from work. If you’re still healthy enough to work, carry tissues and a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Just because you experience a cold one way, someone else could respond to it much worse. And if one of your coworkers gets sick, that means more work for you 😦

If you have a mild to moderate cold, don’t go to your doctor and demand a prescription for something!!! There is no prescription drug, no antibiotic that can cure a cold. Antibiotics only work on bacteria, and the cold is a virus. And if you take antibiotics while you have a cold, you could kill the natural bacteria that reside in your body and make yourself vulnerable to other infections.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent yourself from getting a cold. You can wash your hands every half hour of every day and you’ll still get sick. To help raise your odds though, you can try taking Zinc supplements to boost your immune system.

So remember to keep eating healthy, avoid dairy products (they also promote mucus production), and constantly was your hands. And if the cold brings you down, here’s something optimistic to remember: Your body creates a signature antibody for the infection so it knows to attack it whenever it sees it, so you’ll never get sick from this type of virus again!