Cold and flu 101 – your guide to knowing the difference
(NC) Many people confuse the flu with a bad cold – so what's the difference and how do you properly treat it? In some ways they are similar, both influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” and the common cold are both viral respiratory infections, affecting the nose, throat and lungs.
They are spread from person to person through airborne droplets that are sneezed or coughed up by an infected person. In other cases, the viruses can be spread when a person touches an infected surface and then touches their nose, mouth or eyes. This is the reason why these illnesses are most easily spread in crowded conditions such as schools or the workplace.
But the flu and a common cold usually have different symptoms, and are associated with different complications.
“Influenza is associated with more serious complications when compared with the common cold,” says Bowen Chen, Target Pharmacist. “It can lead to pneumonia or respiratory failure and can potentially be life threatening, so it has to be taken very seriously – this is especially relevant in at-risk populations such as the elderly or very young children.”
In terms of symptoms, the flu is usually associated with a high fever, headaches, and aches and pains. Although stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat can occur with both illnesses - these symptoms are more common in colds.
There are a variety of prescription and non-prescription medications that are useful for relieving symptoms and for controlling pain. Consult your pharmacist or healthcare professional to determine which medication is the right one for you. Antibiotics are not effective for the flu or a cold unless a bacterial infection develops. Antiviral medications may be helpful in reducing the duration of your flu, but they must be taken within 48 hours of developing symptoms.
For more information on cold and flu prevention, and to find out which Target pharmacies are offering the flu shot, please visit Target.ca.
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