Cold and Flu Symptoms and Tips to Avoid Illness

It’s that time of year again…..cold and flu season!!  Georgia has had over 300 people hospitalized with the flu so far this season. 

We wanted to give you some tips on the signs and symptoms of the flu and things you can do to avoid the flu!

What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

How is the flu spread?
The flu is spread in droplets released by coughing and sneezing. It usually spreads from person to person, though occasionally people may be infected by touching something with the virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu usually starts suddenly and may include these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

* It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Who is at risk of developing Flu-related Complications?

  • Children under 5, but especially children under 2
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women

People with the following health conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Cerebral Palsy (and other neurologic disorders)
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Heart Disease
  • Blood Disorders
  • Diabetes (and other endocrine disorders)
  • Kidney and Liver Disorders
  • HIV/AIDS (and others with weakened immune systems)
  • Cancer
  • Patients on chronic steroids

When is a person contagious and how long can a person spread the flu?
People with flu are contagious (able to infect others) beginning one day before getting symptoms. Adults remain contagious up to seven days after getting sick and children can remain contagious for even longer. That means that you can give someone the flu before you know you're sick as well as when you are sick.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds tend to develop gradually, while the flu tends to start very suddenly. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

Tips to Avoid Getting the Flu!!
Wash your hands!!
The number one way to avoid getting the cold or flu is to wash your hands!!  Germs live on your hands up to 3 hours, so washing your hands after you shake someone’s hand, after using public transportation, after handling money – will help keep germs away.

Get enough rest!!
Are you exhausted all the time and can’t figure out why your body still feels sluggish even after a full night of sleep? Well, one of the quickest ways to catch a cold is by not receiving enough rest. When your body is exhausted, your immune system isn’t working to fight off incoming diseases. Most people don’t get enough sleep during a normal night, so make sure you actually get between 8 to 10 hours.

Don’t touch your face!!
Surprisingly, touching your mouth, nose, or eyes could be one of the reasons why you frequently get sick. Some people have a bad habit of touching their face without realizing it, but this can cause germs to spread. These areas of your face are the most common places for germ infestation, so avoid touching your face and hopefully that will help you avoid catching a cold.

Eat Vitamins C & E!!
Eating healthy is another great way to avoid catching a cold. Of course, you’ve probably heard that consuming a lot of vitamin C – usually found in citrus fruit – is a great way to ward off colds. But consuming vitamin E, which is found in foods such as almonds, sunflower seeds, or peanut butter, is another great way to ward off impending colds. Eating a healthy diet will help your immune system stay strong and will protect your body from germs.

Keep hydrated!!
It’s important to stay hydrated all year long, but it’s especially important if you think you might be in danger of catching a cold. Consuming a lot of water helps keep your body healthy and strong, allowing it to fight off germs. Water has also been known to improve the immune system, and a healthy immune system means less of a chance of catching a cold.

We hope you and your family stay healthy during this cold and flu season!