Cold and flu viruses spread easily in the late fall and winter. Wash your hands often to protect yourself from catching and spreading a cold or the flu. You can lower your risk of catching the flu by getting the flu vaccine every year. If you do catch a cold or the flu, try to stay away from others to avoid spreading the disease.
What are Colds?
Everyone gets a cold from time to time. Colds usually last 1 to 2 weeks. You can catch a cold at any time of year, but they are more common in late winter and early spring. There is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics will not cure a cold. If you catch a cold, treat the symptoms.
Lots of different viruses cause colds, but the symptoms are usually the same:
Runny nose and sneezing
Sore throat and cough
Headaches and body aches
You will probably feel a cold come on over the course of a couple of days. As the cold gets worse, your nose may get stuffy with thicker mucus.
If you feel like you have a cold all the time, or if cold symptoms last more than 2 weeks, you may have allergies or sinusitis. Call your doctor.
What is Influenza (Seasonal Flu)?
Influenza (flu) is a viral infection. People often use the term "flu" to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus, that has symptoms like the flu. But the real flu is different. Flu symptoms are usually worse than a cold and last longer. The flu usually does not cause vomiting or diarrhea in adults.
Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter. The flu is caused by influenza viruses A and B. There are different strains of the flu virus every year.
The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. You will probably feel tired and less hungry than usual. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first 3 or 4 days. But it can take 1 to 2 weeks to get completely better.
It usually takes 1 to 4 days to get symptoms of the flu after you have been around someone who has the virus.
Most people get better without problems. But sometimes the flu can lead to a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, a sinus infection, or bronchitis. In rare cases, the flu may cause a more serious problem, such as pneumonia.
Certain people are at higher risk of problems from the flu. They include young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with long-term illnesses or with impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infection.
If you think you have the flu, your doctor may be able to give you medicine that can make the symptoms milder. But you need to start taking it within 2 days of your first symptoms.