One of the most common questions that are asked during cold season is “How can I tell the difference between the common cold and flu?”
Viral upper respiratory infections, AKA the common cold, a viral infection caused by a large number of viruses, most commonly rhinovirus. Rhinovirus has more than 100 different types with each capable of making a person sick once in their lifetime. Once you have been exposed to a specific virus, you are then mostly immune to it.
Even though symptoms of common cold vary from patient to patient but most common symptoms are runny nose and nasal congestion. Cough, malaise and sore throat are other most common symptoms that you could experience. You also may experience conjunctivitis (burning, watery eyes) but does not happen all the time. Fever is more common in children than adults. The severity of symptoms depends on the age, underlying disease, previous infection and the type of infecting virus. Usually cold Initially starts with runny nose, nasal obstruction, and sneezing - which are more prominent in the next couple of days and a sore throat that is usually short-
lived. On the fourth or fifth day a bothersome cough starts as the nasal symptoms start fading.
The common cold usually lasts three to seven days, even though many people may
experience symptoms up to two weeks. A new viral infection or a secondary bacterial infection can develop as a result of depressed immune system or narrowing of nasal passage due to inflammation. Moreover, lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia as well as middle ear infection are other complications of cold. Though the initial symptoms should never be treated with antibiotics, sometimes the secondary infections require antimicrobial treatment.
Influenza is caused by either the influenza A or B viruses which cause an acute respiratory illness that mainly infects individuals during the winter season. It is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, headache, myalgia, fatigue, and malaise. Respiratory tract illness symptoms such as nonproductive cough, sore throat, and nasal discharge can sometimes be present. The fever, usually lasting up to 4 days can range from 100 F to 104 F, and may go up to 106 F. Vomiting and diarrhea are less common in adults but can be a part of flu manifestations in children.
Patients with uncomplicated influenza typically progressively improve over two to
five days, but the illness may last for more than a week. The symptoms of weakness
and fatigue may last for several weeks. Primary flu pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia are the most common complications of the flu which mostly happens in a people with underlying chronic disease or weak immunity. Complications of central nervous system, heart and other organs may happen after the flu as well.
When to seek a medical care:
It is very important to seek medical care on time to avoid complications. Do not let the illness linger and get worse.
Seek immediate medical care if:
Fever lasts more than three days
Severe sore throat and painful swallowing
Cough that lasts more than two or three weeks
Persistent headache and congestion
Severe chest pain
Shortness of breath
Additionally be aware of these symptoms especially in children:
Rapid breathing, shortness of breath, or bluish skin