Colds and Flu — Myths and Reality

F_AU15_flu-pic.jpgHere we are in the middle of what is one of the coldest winters we have had for a while. The Medical Centre is full with the usual winter ailments and the myths about coughs and cold are doing the rounds.   So here are some facts to help:

Colds are triggered by infection or virus — not wet hair, a drafty house or being caught in the rain. Being in a colder temperature only makes you colder, not sicker. The only way to catch a cold is by being with someone who has one and as there are more than 200 common cold viruses it’s not hard to catch especially if you have kids.

Not all exposures to a cold will result in you getting one; your immune system will often thwart a cold     virus. You will only get a cold if the virus is inhaled into your respiratory tract or rubbed near your eyes.

So what do you do if you catch a cold or flu:

  • Stay at home — don’t rush back to work. Rest is the only cure.
  • Drink hot fluids to relieve congestion and stave off dehydration.
  • Up your immunity and get vaccinated against the flu – it is yours and the community’s best defence.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands afterwards.

Flu is a different matter:  It is also a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Most people who get the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

Vaccination, rest and fluids are the three best cures for colds and flu.