Influcid - Cold and Flu

Good to know –the difference between cold and flu

When you wake up sneezing, coughing and have that achy, feverish, can’t-move-a-muscle feeling, how do you know whether you have a cold or flu (influenza)?

Cold and flu are very common viral infections of the upper respiratory tract (i.e. nose, throat, ears and sinuses). There are hundreds of different types of viruses that can cause a cold. Flu is caused by a flu virus. There are three major virus types: type A (often the cause of flu epidemics), type B and type C.

The symptoms of a common cold usually arise slowly and tend to be mild while the onset of flu is mostly sudden and more intense (fever above 39°C, severe disease).

Although both diseases show quite similar symptoms, the impact of your general condition and your everyday life may be totally different. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you quite ill for a few days or even weeks. Flu can also involve a greater risk to result in serious problems, such as pneumonia which can lead to hospitalisation.

Cold and flu are very contagious, passed on from one person to another by droplet infection (airborne droplets – e.g. speaking, sneezing, coughing) or by direct contact (e.g. shaking hands, infection through touch).Usually your immune system is fit enough to cope with them. However, when your defence-mechanisms are weakened by external factors such as stress, insomnia or an unbalanced diet, infections can gain a foothold.

Symptom checker

Symptoms of colds and flu at a glance

Please see below the symptoms and find out what you suffer from:

Cold

  • slow beginning of the disease
  • highly acute onset of symptoms
  • low grade to moderate fever (usually under 39 °C)
  • occasionally mild to moderate headache and muscle pain
  • sneezing
  • runny or congested nose
  • sore throat
  • dry cough

Flu

  • highly acute onset of symptoms
  • intense malaise
  • high fever (body temperature above 39 °C) usually lasting for several days
  • intense headache and muscle pains
  • cough with chest pain and difficulty to breath
  • sometimes runny or congested nose and soar throat
  • sometimes pink eye with burning eyes and light sensitivity

Cold

What is a cold?

On average, residents in Central Europe are affected by a common cold two to four times each year; the frequency in children being even higher. A common cold or acute flu-like infection is a mild viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, which causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes. There are more than 200 different viruses that cause colds.

Onset and course of the disease are usually harmless. Typical symptoms are a runny or congested nose, sneezing, soar throat and dry cough, which can be associated with fever, muscle pain and general malaise.

Colds are spread by droplet infection (airborne droplets – speaking, sneezing, coughing) or by direct contact like shaking hands etc.

The incubation period (period between infection and appearance of symptoms) is about two to five days.

Usually, a common cold subsides within one to two weeks; in some cases a bacterial (super-) infection may cause tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis media, bacterial bronchitis or pneumonia.

Children usually have milder diseases, although up to 25% may develop otitis media.

Common colds usually occur in seasonal outbreaks, particularly in winter, that is: December to March in the northern hemisphere and June to August in the southern hemisphere.

Flu

What is a flu?

A seasonal flu (influenza) is an acute and highly infections disease of the respiratory tract caused by the flu virus. There are three major flu virus types: A, B and C. Virus type A is the most virulent one and can create serious epidemics or pandemics (epidemic spreading throughout the world). Type B usually causes only mild diseases and type C is less common and has hardly an impact on flu infections in humans.

Flu symptoms may range from the mild symptoms of a common cold to serious pneumonia. Symptoms indicating a flu infection are a sudden onset of symptoms associated with high fever, intense malaise, exhaustion, intense headache and muscle pains, cough with chest pain and difficulty in breathing, soar throat and pink eye (conjunctivitis).

Flu spreads much the same way as a common cold by droplet infection. The incubation period is two to three days; the disease lasts for about five to seven days, sometimes more than three weeks. Intensity and duration of the disease may weaken the immune system seriously and thus increase the risk of secondary bacterial infections. Particularly, elderly people with underlying diseases (e.g. chronic lung and heart diseases, metabolic diseases), immunosuppressed people and children are at high risk from the disease itself, as well as from possible complications.

Flu usually occurs throughout the year, but shows seasonal outbreaks from December to April in the northern hemisphere.

Immune system

Your immune system takes care of you

Day by day, the body has to defend itself against the attacks of viruses and bacteria.

Within our bodies, we have a highly complex defence system, the immune system, based on the interaction of different organs, cells and different types of proteins helping to protect the body against all kind of pathogens. The immune system has two components. The non-specific immune system ensures that, from their very first contact with the body, pathogens are eliminated. The specific immune system reacts somewhat more slowly, but it therefore acts in a more targeted way. Once the specific immune system has become acquainted with a particuliar pathogen, it builds up a so-called “immunological memory”. It produces antibodies which allow a quick, adapted and efficient detection and elimination of that very specific pathogen in future infections.

We are not always adequately protected against infections. Various factors, such as environmental pollution, an unbalanced diet or a stressful lifestyle, can weaken our body´s active defences. In this situation our body calls for a remedy to stimulate and to power up the body´s natural self-defences without harming it.

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