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Is It The Flu??

Are you home sick from work with coughing, sneezing, and congestion? Is a high fever worrying you that it may be more than just the common cold? How do you tell the difference between a cold and the flu, anyway? Sooner or later this flu season, which typically extends from November to February, most people in the US will be faced with questions similar to these. The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, estimates that 25-50 million citizens will fall ill to the flu this year, and of those cases there will be roughly 350,000 flu-related deaths. But don’t panic! With knowledge of the facts on the differences between a cold and the flu along with proper prevention and treatment techniques, surviving the flu season this winter can be a no-brainer.

Although a cold and the flu are both caused by viruses, there are several key differences. Cold symptoms occur gradually and may include coughing, congestion, sneezing, sore throat and a runny nose. Flu symptoms generally have a sudden onset and can encompass all the usual cold symptoms, plus a high fever, severe headache, body aches, and chills. Sometimes nausea or vomiting may occur.

Unfortunately, both colds and the flu are caused by viruses, for which there is no fast cure. Plenty of rest and fluids are the best way to overcome these illnesses, and over-the-counter medications containing a mix of antihistamines, decongestants, and cough suppressants can help alleviate the symptoms of these viruses. In the case of a severe flu, a doctor may recommend an antiviral prescription medication to treat the illness and prevent infections arising from complications. Despite what many believe, antibiotics will have no effect on either a cold or the flu.

While a cold doesn’t usually result in complications, the flu can develop into pneumonia, bronchitis and other potentially dangerous respiratory infections if not properly treated. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with immune system deficiencies are more likely to experience these complications, so it is extremely important for them to seek medical attention if they suspect they have the flu virus. These groups of people may want to consider an early vaccination against the flu. For the rest of the population, a doctor or hospital visit is only necessary if symptoms have worsened or stayed the same after three to four days.

Make guarding your health this flu season a priority! The information above can help lessen the duration of an illness, but prevention is always the best remedy. Frequent hand washing, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, keeping hydrated, and taking a multivitamin can drastically decrease the risk of contracting the flu or a cold this winter.

Visit the links below for more information on cold and flu virus prevention, detection, and treatment:

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