Physically, from the outside view, the differences seem minimal, as the symptoms tend to overlap. However, from a microscopic point of view, the cold and flu are caused by different types of viruses. The common cold is usually caused by variations of the rhinovirus or viruses that affect the upper respiratory tract. There are over 200 different types of viruses, which constantly mutate, that can cause the common cold, so it is near impossible to completely immunize and prevent the common cold. Symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, fever, tiredness, coughs, headache and body aches. Fortunately, for individuals who have a relatively healthy medical history and no other medical complications, the common cold should resolve itself within a week or so.
The flu, short for influenza, is commonly known as the “serious” version of the common cold in terms of symptoms. Incidentally, the symptoms are intensified, and the flu does not go away within a week like the common cold. It would be wise to see a doctor at this time, as he or she may prescribe antiviral medications and precautionary measures to prevent worsening of flu symptoms. If left untreated, influenza may worsen into serious, sometimes life threatening medical conditions, including but not limited to pneumonia, bronchitis, and severe respiratory tract infections.
Common cold symptoms are fever, body aches, tiredness, dry cough, and headache, runny or stuffy noses. If left untreated a common cold usually resolves in 7 days for individuals with no other medical complications. Influenza (or the more serious version of the common cold) has symptoms of fever and/or body chills, muscles and body aches, extreme fatigue, dry cough, headache, vomiting and/or diarrhea, does not necessarily have runny or stuffy noses. If left untreated it can worsen into the following, pneumonia, bacterial infections, bronchitis, sinus and ear infection, other respiratory-related complications.
For preventative measures for both cold and flu it is important to stay away from infected individuals as well as places where they have been, or things they have touched. Physical steps that can be taken to avoid the flu or the cold include:
- Regular hand washing with plain soap and water to reduce transmission of viruses.
- Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Disinfect surfaces that may have been in contact with infected individuals.
- Adopt a healthy, well-balanced diet and lifestyle to ensure a strong immune system.
- Avoid sharing food, drinks or eating utensils.
- Be sure to cover your cough or sneezes.
- Immediately dispose of any used tissues properly.
- Drink water to stay hydrated and help flush out internal toxins.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep so your body can rest and allow itself to heal.
- Try not to touch your face.
Note: This article was compiled by Jan Rudeen, a massage therapist at Dr. Moore’s Chiropractic Clinic. Dr. Moore and staff want all patients to stay healthy throughout the year..