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The Best Ways to Deal with a Seasonal Cold and Flu

Everything you should know about how to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Updated:July 19, 2019, 12:18 PM IST
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The Best Ways to Deal with a Seasonal Cold and Flu
Everything you should know about how to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
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Whether you enjoy the Indian monsoon or not, it’s safe to say no one likes getting sick. But that’s precisely what happens since cold and cough is everywhere in this season. So the big question is - is it possible to sail through flu season without a hitch?

The Common Cold Vs The Flu

Let’s set the record straight - the common cold is not the same as the flu! There are at least 160 types of rhinovirus, which can cause the common cold. The common cold is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, and while there is no cure, treatment involves relieving symptoms and helping the affected person to wait it out. The way you know you have a cold is when you feel generally unwell, have a stuffy nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing or even a sore throat. While an intense bout of the Common cold can also have you running a slight fever, usually having a cold means you still have the energy to continue with your daily activities.

In comparison, having the flu can start with similar symptoms to the common cold but can escalate to being more serious quickly, especially for anyone with a weak, developing or compromised immune system. Unlike a cold, the flu can lead to pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalisation. Recovery takes at least a week to 10 days, and you are far more likely to feel severely fatigued, have a fever, headaches, achy muscles, an upset stomach and/ or nausea.

Prevention

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Taking care of yourself is your first line of defence against getting a cold. We’ve grown up hearing about how we need to eat nutritious food and get plenty of both sleep and exercise. This is never truer than in the rainy season when your immune system is always under siege and can use all the help it can get. A study published in 2013 shows that people who get less than six hours of sleep on average are about four times more likely to get the cold than people who sleep more than seven hours.

One vital thing to remember is that while their symptoms can be very similar in the beginning, Influenza (or the flu) and Common Cold are different conditions. While staying fit and healthy is a great start, given the seriousness of this virus, everyone from infants and pregnant women to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems should get vaccinated against the flu at the start of winter every year, recommends the WHO.

The vaccine does not protect against the dozens of flu viruses that can affect you but lowers the severity of the disease and the risk of associated complications. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop and protect against infection, and the effect lasts for nearly a year. Talk to your doctor about the right time to get your annual booster depending on where you live and your medical history. For the northern hemisphere, the recommended vaccine for 2018-19 is a quadrivalent vaccine containing A/Michigan (H1N1), A/Singapore (H3N2), B/Colorado; and B/Phuket viruses.

Treatment

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If you are a reasonably healthy person, your immune system is perfectly capable of dealing with the common cold. But the first rule of thumb should you catch a cold is to sequester yourself as much as possible. While you only get a limited amount of sick days a year - consider working from home or using your sick leave instead of spreading germs in an air-conditioned space. Some simple things you can do to get more comfortable when you have a cold is to stay hydrated, rest, try a saltwater gargle for relief from a sore or scratchy throat and ask your doctor for something to help with the stuffy nose and body aches - never self medicate!

If you have the flu, it should pass in about a week or two, though getting plenty of rest and taking some simple medicines (on doctor’s advice) to lower your fever can help you feel more comfortable. Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics won’t speed up your recovery because they don’t work against infections caused by viruses, such as colds and flu. Treating your symptoms with hot soup, tea and lots of rest is fine, but If your symptoms don’t seem to be getting better, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.

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