Colds and flu: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
About colds and flu
Common cold and flu are two different conditions which have many clinical features in common. The features of common cold are milder as compared with flu. Both colds and flu are short lasting infections of the upper respiratory tract and easily transmitted from person to person.
Colds and flu: Incidence, age and sex
These respiratory infections are extremely common in the general population and may be seen in any age group. However, they are more common in both active and passive smokers.
Signs and symptoms of colds and flu: Diagnosis
The clinical features common to both colds and flu are high temperature, runny nose, exhaustion and muscle ache. Individuals with common cold may exhibit other symptoms like headache, sore throat, sneezing or watering of eyes. The symptoms of flu are severe as compared to common cold and characterised by the sudden onset of high temperature with chills, increased sweating, persistent cough, loss of appetite and severe fatigue. Generally, no tests are required to establish the diagnosis of common cold or flu. However, some blood tests may be needed to rule out other infections, especially in individuals in whom clinical presentation is not clear.
Causes and prevention of colds and flu
These infections are exceedingly common in every society and caused by viruses which may belong to various species. Common cold and flu are air-borne infections and thus highly contagious. Influenza vaccination is advisable both in children and adults to prevent flu. Unfortunately, there seems to be no vaccine available for common cold. Preventive measures like frequent washing of hands and covering of mouth while coughing, may inhibit spreading of thus infection.
Colds and flu: Complications
Such respiratory infections, if left untreated or encountered frequently in an individual, may result in sinusitis, acute bronchitis or may even exacerbate asthma. Moreover, common cold or flu may spread to the ear, especially in children and cause otitis media. Sometimes, secondary bacterial infections may affect the respiratory tract and lungs, resulting in a serious infection called pneumonia.
Colds and flu: Treatment
Both common cold and flu are self-limiting infections which generally resolve within a week’s time. Recurrences are fairly common. There is no cure for common cold as in flu which may benefit from anti-viral medications. Several medications are available to alleviate the symptoms. Such medications constitute anti-pyretics for high-temperature, analgesics for muscle ache and headache. Cough syrups and nasal sprays may help in diminishing cough and nasal congestion. Home remedies like gargling with lukewarm water may provide relief in sore throat. Last but not the least, consuming plenty of fluids, helps improve congestion and also prevent dehydrations which may result from high temperature.