Facing Up to Colds and Flu

by Mary Sofia

age-well.org > prevent age related diseases > Colds and Flu

Is it a cold or flu?

It's almost inevitable that we are going to be exposed to either a cold or influenza during the coming winter months. How do we distinguish between the two, for a start?

Well, I've heard of a very easy, home-made recipe known in Britain as the 'ten-pound note test!' It's very simple. From the comfort of your couch, wrapped up in your warmest blanket, you notice a ten-pound note on the floor. Your partner will be coming home any minute now, and the kids are old enough to claim they dropped it. Well, if you have the strength and the will to get up and retrieve it then it's just a cold. If it's flu you have, then you would remain where you were and be more than willing to add to the sum , just to feel better!

Both colds and flu are viral respiratory infections and are spread through the droplets of mucus released from coughs and sneezes. Additional causes for succumbing to either is a general state of fatigue or emotional stress. On average, a cold will clear up in a week while flu can last up to two or three weeks.

Can we prevent catching one or the other?

Some might swear by Vitamin C to prevent colds ,but scientific research doesn't uphold this theory. A supplement of Vitamin C might hasten the elimination of the cold, combined with other aids such as rest, warm (non-alcoholic) drinks, constant room temperature and a healthy diet.

It goes without saying that the person affected should avoid finding him/herself in closed, crowded areas thus avoiding being re-infected or infecting others.

It's especially important to remember to wash one's hands frequently as surfaces such as door-knobs, tables, kitchen utensils may have been contaminated.

It's also more hygienic to use paper tissues rather than handkerchiefs so that any germs are immediately disposed of.

Vacination - the best defense

Those who are too weak to reach for the 'ten-pound note' may have forgotten to go for their flu vaccination! Although the vaccination doesn't come with a guarantee that you won't catch flu, it still remains the best defence.

There are certain respiratory conditions which could be life-threatening if worsened by flu and a doctor will advise if and when to be vaccinated.

Symptoms and treatment

To be suffering from flu normally means having a fever, headaches, fatigue, aches and pains all over the body, on top of the 'cold' symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat and cough. Although there is no drug to get rid of flu, the doctor can prescribe medicines to alleviate the symptoms and prevent the aggravation of an already weak condition.

Yet again, attention to hygiene (washing hands), lots of rest and the assumption of medicines to reduce fever or alleviate headaches is, to date, the only remedy.

Preventative measures

Once we have undergone the torture of a bout of cold or flu, most of us resolve to fortify our bodies with a healthy diet, but don't be afraid of stepping outdoors on a cold day. Regular exercise will boost our system, but a hat, scarf and gloves will make the walk all the more enjoyable.

Get the flu vaccination, especially if you are elderly or have a chronic disease, avoid crowed places while there is an epidemic, avoid touching your face and mouth and wash hands constantly, especially before eating or preparing food.

Stay active, keep warm and stay well.

(Sources: Scientific American, Web MD, NHS web, C Health)

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