NHC ANNAPOLIS HEALTH PROMOTION
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COLDS AND FLU

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases developed the information below. 

Sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose- everyone knows the signs of a cold. The common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting a week or less. It is also the leading cause of doctor visits and school or job absenteeism. Influenza, or the "flu," is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of influenza viruses. The most familiar aspect of the flu is the way it can knock you off of your feet. It often sweeps through entire communities during the winter. The flu can be more serious than a cold and can sometimes lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. You should know the differences so you can take steps toward prevention and proper medical treatment.

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Fever Rare Characteristic, high (102-104°F); lasts 3-4 days

Headache

Rare

Prominent

General Aches & Pains

Slight

Usual; often severe

Fatigue

Quite mild

Can last up to 2-3 weeks

Extreme Exhaustion

Never

Early and prominent

Stuffy Nose

Common

Sometimes

Sneezing

Usual

Sometimes

Sore Throat

Common

Sometimes

Chest Discomfort, Cough

Mild to moderate; hacking cough

Common; can become severe

Complications

Sinus congestion or earache

Bronchitis; pneumonia; can be life threatening

Prevention

None- however frequent handwashing may help diminish the spread

Annual vaccination; antiviral drug as recommended by your doctor

Treatment

Only temporary relief of symptoms

In the United States, four antiviral drugs are FDA-approved for use against influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir and oseltamivir. The adamantane drugs are approved for influenza A while the neuraminidase inhibitor drugs zanamivir and oseltamivir are approved for influenza A and influenza B. On December 19, 2008 CDC issued interim guidance for health care providers on which antiviral drugs to use during the 2008-09 flu season.