Colds vs Flu

It’s THAT time of year again – sniffling people abound and you’re tempted to go live in a bomb shelter to avoid getting sick. Sadly, that’s just not practical, but the answers to these FAQs will help you navigate cold and flu season more effectively.

Colds vs flu: What’s the difference?

Both are respiratory illnesses, but are caused by different viruses, says Carol Willemse, head pharmacist at Dis‑Chem Verdi Centre in Johannesburg. “The symptoms are very similar and it’s often difficult to tell the difference between a bad cold and a flu. You’ll probably feel worse if you have the flu, with fever, aches and pains, extreme fatigue, headaches and a cough. The common cold usually only causes a sore throat, congestion and a light fever, but can worsen if you also get a bacterial infection.”

Can it be prevented?

Your best defence is to regularly wash your hands. You should be spending at least 20 seconds rubbing your hands with soap and rinsing with warm water. Regular physical activity also boosts your immune system, helping your body fight off infection more efficiently.

How do flu vaccines work?

Vaccines are made up of small inactive parts of flu viruses, causing the production of anti-bodies that will fight off those viruses. Flu viruses change, and every year the vaccine is adapted to the virus in circulation. You should be immune around two weeks after being injected, says Carol.

Kids younger than five, adults over 65, pregnant women, and those with suppressed immune systems (such as cancer patients) are most at risk and should strongly consider getting vaccinated. The vaccine is available at Dis‑Chem clinics from March/April every year.

What’s the best remedy?

If you have a general cold, bed rest and over-the-counter remedies such as cough syrup, throat lozenges, pain medication and decongestants can help ease symptoms and be enough to get you up and going again. Eating plenty of soups (chicken or otherwise) has been scientifically proven to help and some studies show that even drinking tea can reduce inflammation.

However, when you have been ill for longer than 10 days, your symptoms are worsening or at any point you can’t breathe properly, it’s time to head for the doctor. It may be an infection that can’t be treated with antibiotics, but if it’s a viral or fungal pneumonia, it will still require special treatment. While antibiotics shouldn’t always be a first line of treatment, they do have their place and the key is to treat them with the respect they deserve to ensure they continue to work for many years

Myths, busted

Myth:A runny nose means you’re contagious.

Fact:You’re only contagious for the first three or four days of a cold – and, often, you won’t even show symptoms during this time.

Myth:Only physically touching a sick person can make you sick.

Fact:Cold-causing microbes can travel almost 2m when a sick person coughs, sneezes or even just talks. The microbes can also survive for up to two days outside the body – on your skin or any touchable surface.

Myth:Chilly weather causes colds.

Fact:Low humidity levels can help microbes whiz through the air quicker and farther, while dry air can dehydrate the protective mucus lining in your nasal passages, making you more vulnerable to infection. So yes, colds and flu are more prevalent in winter, but not because of the temperature.

Available at Dis-Chem

Immunity Booster kit

•          Lifestyle Nutrition Buffered Vitamin C

•          Echina+

•          Dis-Chem Gold Garlic Oil (odourless)

•          Lifestyle Nutrition Pelagon C

•          Lifestyle Nutrition Vitamin C Fizzies

•          VirAway Cold & Flu Immune  System Enhancer

•          Biogen Biomune Cold & Flu Shield