Springtime is a time you really don’t want to get sick – but let’s face it, no one wants to get sick any time of the year. You feel a tickle in your throat, then a headache coming on, start to sniffle or sneeze, and suddenly you feel really tired. You know you’re coming down with something – but is it a cold, or do you have the flu?
With both conditions your symptoms can include a sore throat, runny nose, headache, body aches, chills, fatigue and nausea. The main difference is that with the flu, you’ll have a temperature above 37.8C (a normal temperature is about 37C but can fluctuate from 36.1 to 37.2 depending on the time of day and physical activity).
Flu symptoms tend to come on suddenly, are more severe and are at their worst for the first three or four days; after that, it can take up to two weeks before you feel better. A cold can linger anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, although one week is typical.
Viruses are the culprits behind both of these illnesses. Did you know that there are more than 200 viruses that can cause cold-like symptons? In contrast, there are just two influenza viruses – A and B, which continually mutate, requiring the flu vaccine to be updated each year in order to protect against the latest strains.
Cold viruses are infectious up to two days before symptoms appear and remain infectious until they’re gone. Influenza, however, is infectious one day before it appears and remains so for up to six days after symptoms develop.
The possibility of science finding a cure for the common cold “just a catch-all phrase for the many different viruses that circulate” is unlikely. Researchers at MIT are working on a drug that kills cells that are infected by all types of viruses, including rhinoviruses (the most common for colds) and influenza, but it will be at least 10 years before it can even be tested on humans.
So, unless you have a pre-existing condition that requires medical attention, “once you get sick with a cold or the flu, you just have to get through it,” says pharmacist Valerie Kalyn, owner of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Calgary. Your best bet is to avoid getting sick in the first place. How easy is this?
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time, says Marianne Trevorrow, a naturopathic doctor in Victoria and a director at the British Columbia Naturopathic Association. If soap and water aren’t available, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is the next best thing. Supplementing with vitamin D may also help since a recent study found that people with low levels of D are the most likely to catch colds and flu. Get proper sleep, try to improve your stress levels (easier said than done), the old drink lots of fluids & chicken soup rule seems to hold true and if you must, take an over the counter remedy.
An old-school FIX for the Common Cold : even though over-the-counter decongestants and cough medicines help to relieve symptoms, they won’t speed recovery.
New-School REMEDY: Elderberry Extract. The purplish extract has been shown to be effective against ten strains of influenza virus, likely by increasing the production on chemical messengers that stimulate the immune system. When adults were given elderberry syrup or a placebo within the first 48 hours of feeling flu symptoms, those who took the elderberry (one tablespoon of the antivaral syrup four times a day) felt better on average four days sooner. Bonus: it tastes a little like blueberry candy.
BE Healthy & Feel Good!