During this time of year, the phone begins to ring with people who have “the flu”. But actually…they don’t. Can you tell the difference between having a cold and having the flu?
The common cold (and boy is it common) is a gradual development over several days and can start with a scratchy throat, sneezing and sniffles leading to congestion. Any fever that might be present is mild (in adults). Coughing is generally hacking and can be moist due to congestion.
On the other hand, influenza usually starts very suddenly with a fever (usually greater than 101 degrees F and lasting 3-4 days), headache and all over the body aches (myalgia). People with the flu are often exhausted and/or fatigued. Coughing is generally dry and hacking and can last for days or weeks after all other flu symptoms have passed.
Influenza or “the flu” is more of a systemic illness, meaning it affects your entire body, whereas a cold generally just affects the upper body. You can sometimes get a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat with the flu, but it’s much more common to have these symptoms with colds. The flu is typically more serious because it can lead to other problems, like pneumonia in susceptible adults and young children.
Influenza is caused by a virus and in general, viral illnesses will run their course without a trip to the doctor. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, so all your doctor can do to help you is to give you pain medications, cough suppressants or an anti-pyretic (fever reducers). All of these are available without a prescription from your local drug store to help you deal with flu symptoms.
If you are suffering from cold or flu symptoms, you should also make it a point to schedule a visit to your chiropractor. We don’t treat the virus directly, but instead help boost your body’s ability to fight the invaders naturally by restoring the full function of your nervous system that controls your immune system. That’s why regular chiropractic care can reduce the frequency with which you get sick. When your body’s immune system is operating at it’s maximum potential, it can fight off these minor intruders with ease. Another helpful step you can take is putting the right things in your body. This includes a healthy diet and occasional supplements such as vitamin D which has been shown to be very effective for preventing the flu.
The best defense against the cold or flu is your own immune system. Keeping it working correctly can help you avoid getting sick in the first place.