According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the common cold and flu are viruses that cause some degree of respiratory distress. The cold and flu viruses are so similar, in fact, it’s often difficult to distinguish their symptoms. Though there is no cure for either virus, you can treat the symptoms associated with each illness.
Onset of Symptoms
Symptoms of the cold virus manifest gradually. As reported by Linda Carroll, health and science writer for MSNBC, zinc and vitamin C tablets have not been shown to diminish cold symptoms or the duration of the illness as previously thought. Dr. Neil Fishman, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, says the only way to get rid of a cold is to expel it through mucous secretions. In other words, the cold virus literally runs out your nose in three to five days. Symptoms of the flu appear suddenly within three to six hours. A doctor-prescribed anti-viral medication can lessen the severity and duration of symptoms, but you have to take it at the onset of the symptoms for it to work.
You’ll probably experience moderate to severe fatigue with the cold and flu, so go ahead and give in to the urge to nap under a warm blanket. Rest alone won’t get rid of the virus, but it will give your body the energy it needs to fight it.
Although fever is usually a flu symptom, it’s less common with a cold. A fever is your body’s natural way of fighting an infection, so it’s best to let a moderate fever run its course. If your fever spikes over 105 degrees F or doesn’t come down with medication, call your physician. For infants who are three months old or younger, seek help if their temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees F. Children who run a fever of less than 102 degrees F only need treatment if they are uncomfortable. If body aches and chills accompany the fever, you can temporarily relieve the symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen.
Stuffy or runny noses, combined with a sore throat, are telltale signs of a cold. These symptoms are less common with the flu. Drinking hot liquids or taking a steamy shower can help relieve nasal congestion, chest discomfort and cough. Gargling with 1 tsp. salt dissolved in warm water four times a day will soothe a sore throat. Remember that the cold virus exits through your nose, so be sure to blow into a tissue often. Just make sure to wash your hands when you’re done.
- sick woman image by forca from Fotolia.com