What is a cold or flu?
A cold or flu is caused by a contagious virus. They are quite different illnesses. A cold is a mild respiratory illness and you can feel unwell for 7 to 10 days. A flu can make you feel very ill for up to several weeks. There are hundreds of cold viruses but flu viruses fall under four main types, with Human Influenza A and B viruses causing seasonal outbreaks nearly every winter. These two influenza viruses are further divided into different types. Getting a flu shot can protect you against the flu viruses that are the same or related to the viruses in the vaccine. There is no vaccine for a cold. While a cold virus can occur at any time of the year, the flu virus is predominantly caught in winter months. A potential complication of the flu is pneumonia, particularly in the young or elderly.
Common symptoms of cold and flu
Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat and progress to runny nose and congestion, and a cough. A fever is uncommon. If cold symptoms don't improve you should consult your doctor as a secondary infection is possible. Flu symptoms are generally more severe than cold symptoms and can include fever, headache, muscle aches and pains. Sore throat, nasal congestion and cough are less predominant in flu illnesses.
How to treat a cold and flu
There is no specific cure for these viruses. It is important to rest and stay hydrated. Pharmaceuticals such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can ease pain or fever. Cold and flu medications can assist congestion but can have side effects and are not suitable for all. Throat lozenges and gargles can help. Natural treatments for congestion include saline nasal sprays and irrigation as well as steam.
Steam works to relieve inflammation that causes sinus congestion associated with a cold or flu. When inhaled, warm vapours act as a natural expectorant to allow the comfortable clearance of excess mucous in nasal passages. Steam also delivers warm, soothing moisture to dry nasal passages and sore throats to provide lubricating comfort to aggravated airways. Coughs can also be soothed. The therapeutic benefits of steam are recommended by doctors and leading medical sites. Being all natural, there are no unpleasant side effects from drugs.