Cold and flu seaseon will always emerge and when you least expect it, you'll be down and out. It can be hard to distinguish from the two, but if you think you may have a cold, here are some things to consider:
- How can I keep my family safe from colds? To prevent a cold get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and maintain good hygiene. Wash hands frequently, scrub countertops in the bathroom and kitchen often, and clean children’s toys periodically. Especially when someone in the household has a cold, it’s important to not share utensils, dishes, or drinking glasses, and to wash all eating tools and vessels thoroughly. Drink plenty of clear fluids. You also may want to limit exposure to someone who is sick so the virus is less apt to spread. The very young, very old, and those with other health conditions may want to be extra vigilant about prohibiting the spread of colds since their immunity may not be strong enough to fight off a cold.
- Should I still go to work or school when I have a cold? If you feel well enough to still perform work or school duties, you may go. Be considerate of others; sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue, and immediately discard the tissue and wash your hands. This is contrary to old advice suggesting you should “cover your mouth.” More recently, it’s been realized that this advice is flawed because you then have your cold germs all over your hands, and it’s not always convenient to wash immediately.
- How do I know it’s a cold as opposed to the flu? Cold symptoms typically include a runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches or mild headache, sneezing, watery eyes, low-grade fever, and mild fatigue. Flu symptoms usually are more severe, and could include fever over 100 F (38 C), chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, aching muscles, fatigue and weakness, and nasal congestion. If you think it’s the flu, and it’s been 48 hours since the onset of symptoms, you may be able to receive antiviral medication to help reduce the length of illness and prevent secondary infections.
- When should I see a doctor for a cold? In most cases, there isn’t much a doctor can do to treat a cold. It is a virus, and there is no vaccine or cure for the common cold. Most colds just have to run their course, and someone with a cold may be able to treat symptoms to make it more bearable while they wait for it to pass. There are times when a visit with a doctor may be in order if you have:
- Fever over 103 F (39.4 C) or higher, accompanied by sweating, chills and a cough with colored phlegm, significantly swollen glands, or severe sinus pain.
- Fever 103 F (39.4 C) or higher in children over the age of 2, fever over 102 F (38.9 C) or higher in children 5 weeks to 2 years, or over 100 (37.8 C) in newborns to 6 weeks. Other dangerous symptoms include signs of dehydration, not drinking enough fluids, fever that lasts more than three days, vomiting or abdominal pain, unusual sleepiness, severe headache, stiff neck, difficulty breathing, persistent crying, ear pain, or persistent cough.
- How long does a cold last? A cold will generally last a week to 10 days. If symptoms worsen or last longer than 10 days, you may want to call your doctor.
- What can I do at home to help ease my cold symptoms? Over-the-counter medications are fine for adults and older children when taken as directed on the packaging. Children younger than 4 years old shouldn’t take OTC cough syrups.
- What homeopathic treatments can I try for treating a cold? As stated, there is no cure for the common cold, but some supplements may help shorten the duration of symptoms. Some of those supplements include Vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc. Many people also use sinus rinses to help cleanse and soothe the sinuses of all the mucous that often occurs with colds. Steam also may be effective at opening the sinuses and soothing vocal chords.
- What secondary infections can occur as a result of having a cold? Acute ear infection, wheezing, sinusitis, bronchitis (bronchiolitis in children), and strep throat are all secondary infections that can occur following a cold.
www.mayoclinic.com Common Cold, and Influenza (Flu)
www.medlineplus.gov Common Cold
Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.