Sometimes you wake up feeling a bit achy and tired. You may feel the onset of a slight headache. Did you stay up too late? Maybe a couple of beers too many the other night with the guys or gals? It’s not like you’re in you thriving 20s anymore, and even if you are, the grind of ‘work-hard-play-hard’ may just be a bit too much for those tender bones; it’s possible. However, most likely, you’re overthinking it. It could just be an old fashion case of the common cold or even the flu.

As the old adage goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and learning how to prevent the flu or cold is just as vital as knowing how to manage it. The latest UK Public Health Report notes that flu levels in the UK continue to remain high.1 Statistics also signal that levels of people contracting the flu have stabilised but continues to be an overall concern here in the UK. Acting Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at PHE (Public Health England),Richard Pebody, emphasises that priority ought to be placed on basic hygiene as a starting point.

Is there a difference between the cold and flu?

This question has always been a point of debate. In colloquial language the terms are used interchangeably, however, there is a difference between the common cold and what is conventionally called the flue. Most people are unaware that there is a difference between the two.

Scientifically, the term influenza is used to refer to what is commonly known as the flu.

The symptoms are quite similar, however, the common cold is much milder than the flu. In addition, it’s estimated that the common cold also lasts for a shorter period of time than the flu. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu is defined as a contagious respiratory illness that’s caused by influenza viruses which infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.2 In the worst case it can become fatal.

Signs/ symptoms of flu include:

  • Fever/feverish feeling
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body/Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • **Can result in serious health problems eg. pneumonia**

In the case of the common cold, it lasts for a much shorter period than the flu – which can go for up to two weeks. The cold, on the other hand, lasts for a maximum of five days.

Symptoms of the common cold are essentially the same as the flu, but can also  include:

  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever

What to do if I have the flu during ‘flu season’?

Ensuring basic hygiene is the first line of defence to prevent yourself from contracting any kind of contagious illness. Influenza is spread through sneezing, unclean hands, or saliva. If you do have the misfortune of catching the flu or the cold there are some things you must make sure to do.

Remedies for the flu include:

  • Rest – The body needs rest and relaxation to rebuild.
  • Stay hydrated – Getting in the necessary liquids is imperative. Keep hydrated.
  • Get some soup – Something warm to soothe the throat is always a plus. The vapour from hot soup can also be inhaled to ease nasal congestion.
  • Top up on vitamins – Getting in those vitamin supplements is important, but natural fruits and vegetables is always preferable.

Importance of getting your flu vaccine/flu jab

Getting your flu vaccine, otherwise known as a flu jab ought not to be taken lightly. Although statistics have shown that flu levels have stabilised you may fall into a high-risk group; if this is the case, you can expect complications in the case that you have contracted the flu.

According to the NHS, if you fall into one or more than one of the following categories, then you’re at high risk of suffering complications after contracting the flu:3

At risk groups include those:

  • Over the age of 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Children and adults with an underlying health condition
  • Children and adults with weakened immune systems

What is swine flu/ h1n1?

Swine flu, more commonly known as the Swine influenza virus (SIV), is any strain of the influenza viruses found in pigs. It’s proven to be a deadly version of the influenza virus and can be fatal.

Swine flu/H1N1 & what it looks like:

In 2009, swine flu came into public consciousness when it reached the level of being considered a global epidemic. First reports of the spread of this particular strain of influenza came from Mexico.

Symptoms of the swine flu are almost exactly similar to that of the common cold and the more conventional influenza virus commonly spread through human contact. Incubation period – the time between being exposed to the infection and showing symptoms usually lasts for 1-4 days. The disease lasts about three to seven days with more serious infections lasting about nine to 10 days.

Symptoms of Swine flu / H1N1:

  • Nasal Secretions
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • High-fever

Vaccination is the best way to prevent and reduce chances of contracting swine flu/h1n1 or any kind of influenza. So, if you haven’t, as soon as possible: GET VACCINATED!

References:

  1. UK Flu Levels – Gov UK
  2. Facts about Influenza – CDC
  3. The Flu Jab – NHS

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