Since most people don’t know the difference between the common cold and the flu, this article will discuss the subject.
Common cold: benign respiratory tract infection caused by a virus (over 200 different types)
Symptoms: runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough
Complications: even though cough (often dry) might turn into a productive one (lung secretions), complications are uncommon
Lenght: 5-10 days
Flu: severe respiratory tract infection but affecting the whole body caused by the Influenza virus (few diffent types; mainly A, B, C)
Symptoms: generalized weakness, fever, shivering, headaches, cough, chest pain , muscle pain
Complications: bronchitis, pneumonia
Lenght: 7 days (although fatigue, cough and chest pain often persist for a while)
The common cold and flu viruses are mainly transmitted through the air we breathe. Although there are more infections during winter, coldness is not the primary cause. Since cold weather makes us spend more time indoors, transmission is then facilitated. The best way to prevent infections is still hygiene (especially hands) and avoiding the share of personal objects. In fact, studies have shown that even massive doses of Vitamin C cannot prevent the common cold or the flu.
However, there is an annual effective vaccine that prevents flu infections. Since its complications can have serious consequences in some people, it is important that people with heart disease, diabetes asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, as well as people over 65 or with a weakened immune system to be vaccined each year.
Finally, it is important to mention that antibiotics (such as penicillin) are useles against viruses but effective against bacterial infections. The best ways to “treat” common cold and flu is bed rest, drinking plenty of water, increasing air humidity and relieving major symptoms. With so many different products available, asking your pharmacist is still the best thing to do...