Colds and the Flu are both caused by viruses but the flu is much more serious.
Here are some tips you can do to try and prevent yourself and your family from getting sick.
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds using soap, and dry hands with a paper towel or clean dry towel.
- Exercise daily for at least thirty minutes to help your body get stronger.
- Eat healthy foods to build your immune system i.e. fresh vegetables with lean protein and try to reduce sugar/salt intake. You can take vitamins and herbal supplements that may help boost your immunity e.g. Vitamin C/Echinacea.
- Keep your home dry by getting fresh air in your home: by opening windows during the day to keep it dry; keep the bathroom door closed when showering/bathing to lessen dampness settling around the house to prevent mould and mildew growing which can lead to respiratory illness; you can also use a dehumidifier.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes (with the inside of your elbow) and dispose of used tissues in a bin. Wash or sanitise your hands with an alcohol gel and keep surfaces and handles at home wiped clean.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Don’t share drinks
- Avoid crowded places
- Have the influenza vaccination annually (see your doctor)
Signs and Symptoms of Colds and the Flu:
Both Colds and the flu can cause symptoms such as a headache, feeling tired, sore throat, sneezing, a blocked/stuffy/runny nose, and a cough.
The flu usually comes on strongly and suddenly whereas a cold may develop over a few days. The flu normally causes body/muscle aches, shivers/chills/sweats, fever, exhaustion/weakness, nausea/poor appetite, vomiting/diarrhoea.
Influenza can affect anyone, no matter how fit, active and healthy they may be. Influenza can mostly be prevented by annual vaccination available from your local doctor, but there is no vaccine to prevent a cold.
Treatment and Symptom relief:
- Stay at home and get some rest (to speed up your recovery) until you are well
- drink plenty of fluids (water, juices) as this loosens up mucus and avoid alcohol/coffee/tea (to avoid dehydration)
- take a pain relief medicine for pain/fever making sure not to double up on ingredients (do not give aspirin to children aged under 16)
- To help with sinus blockage or a runny nose, you can either inhale steam or menthol/eucalyptus vapour (put a towel over your head and the bowl of water) or try nasal Sprays/Drops or Rinses. See External Sinus Decongestants. You can also take Oral Decongestants to help.
- To soothe a sore throat, take fresh lemon juice mixed with honey, hot water and a little olive oil, well shaken then sipped slowly, or take a teaspoon of straight honey. You can also suck on lozenges, or use antiseptic/anti-inflammatory gargles or sprays.
- For coughs, the treatment depends if it is for a chesty or a dry cough. Cough Medicines normally specify which type of cough they treat. There are also natural cough remedies e.g. Prospan, and the Comvita and Weleda range. Some mixtures can help an “in-between cough” i.e. coughs that are both dry and chesty at times e.g. DuroTuss Expectorant, Robitussin Cough & Chest Congestion.
- An antiviral drug may shorten the flu but only if taken in the first 48 hours of symptoms – talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- See your Doctor if you do not start to improve in four days or if the person is a baby/ a child/an elderly person, especially if they are dehydrated, obese, have long-term health issues, or pregnant women.
- You may need an antibiotic from your doctor if you get a secondary bacterial infection following the viral infection. Symptoms include mucus becoming thick and green/brown/bloody in colour and painful lungs, wheezing/short of breath, and/or sore/painful ears, tonsils or sinuses.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have a stiff neck, dislike bright lights or have a rash/spots, joint pain/aching muscles in addition to your ‘cold/flu’ symptoms, it may be meningitis - go to the nearest hospital immediately. For meningitis in an infant, also check for cold hands/feet, irritability especially when picked up, high-pitched/moaning crying, refusing drinks/feeds, vomiting, sleepy/floppy/harder to wake, have a bulging fontanelle (top of the head), skin that is pale/blotchy or turning blue.