It's that time again. . . either the kids or the parents start to feel under the weather. It isn't hard to know that an illness is coming on. You know it's either the cold or the flu and know full well that the next week is going to be a living nightmare. But, how can you tell the difference between the cold and flu? And, what do you do when you figure it out?
Both the cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The cold lasts a little bit longer, usually one week. The flu is much more intense, but only lasts about 4 - 5 days. Yet, the flu is more serious.
The cold always begins with the inhalation through the nostrils of a tiny strand of the cold virus floating around somewhere, or an object. The virus starts in the nostrils. Your body then tries fighting it off by sending out mucous and making you sneeze and cough a lot. The symptoms get worse in the next 48 hours, then finally start to mellow out. However, it is contagious about 2 days before you get the common symptoms up to a few days after the symptoms go away. So, it is contagious for almost 2 weeks.
The flu, on the other hand, comes on much more sudden. The flu contains more body aches, fever, tiredness, dry cough (verses a wet and mucous cough), headaches and chills. It is contagious for about 5 days to a week, depending on the health of the infected person. The flu is often times confused with the stomach flu, which is totally different. The stomach flu has symptoms of stomach problems and is quick and goes away swiftly, whereas the actual flu (influenza) is more serious.
To help your cold, the best thing you can do is get plenty of water and rest. If your body is telling you it is tired or thirsty, you cannot ignore it. When you cough and sneeze, your body releases fluids and your body becomes dry. Drinking plenty of fluids rebuilds your body and helps thin down the mucous. Taking too much medicine can actually do the opposite effect you want. Your body can actually get used to the medicine and build up a tolerance. But, even if you have a tolerance to the medicine, taking more than the recommended dosage can have serious side effects. The best thing you can do is just to drink plenty of water, get sleep, and eat some chicken noodle soup.
For the flu, you should always just be prepared and take the flu shot about every October. But, if you still do come down with the flu, taking antiviral medicine is best. And, just like the cold, getting plenty of rest and fluids are a necessity. Make sure when you have the flu to NOT take aspirin. Taking aspirin with the flu can cause Reye syndrome, and in some cases, can be fatal. Instead, take Tylenol. Tylenol contains no aspirin and instead uses a more safe form of pain relief. If problems persist for more than a week or a fever reaches above 103 degrees, see your doctor. And, when in doubt, see a doctor anyways!
So, the old traditions your Grandma tells you when you are sick still work the best. Modern medicine only temporarily relieves the pain, and eventually may cause more harm than good, aside from some special flu medication. Just make sure you get all the sleep your body tells you to, drink water, and get chicken noodle soup made for you. If you can, let your loved ones spoil you! You will need it and deserve it!
Author and Editor of Family Time Charm
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