- Colds and flu (short for influenza) are caused by viruses.
- Cold viruses infect your upper respiratory tract, while a flu virus impacts deeper down in the respiratory tract and has more severe symptoms than cold viruses.
- Colds and flu are not caused by bacteria, so antibiotics do not help prevent or cure a cold or flu, although they may help if you get a secondary infection, such as a sinus infection.
- Cold and flu viruses can live from three to seven days outside a body.
- Most colds and the flu are caught by placing infected hands to your eyes or nose or in your mouth.
- Cold and flu viruses are heat sensitive (they multiply more quickly when it is cool): they first multiply in your nose then spread from there.
- The time from when you are infected to when you get sick is usually 3 days, but can range from 1 to 4 days. You can infect other people a day before your symptoms appear.
- Colds typically last from 3-5 days. Flu can last a little longer.
- Flu can lead to serious secondary infections such as pneumonia if the person has a weakened immune system. This can be detected by a cough that gets worse, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, and/or a persistent and recurring fever. See a Doctor immediately.
Colds and Flu – can you avoid them?
Truth is you cannot always avoid them but you can reduce how often you get colds and flu by following a few simple tips:
- Practice good hygiene. This means a few things; wash your hands, thoroughly and often, especially after touching public or common surfaces like door handles or bus railings, or by shaking hands. Use antibacterial soap for your hands, or, use antibacterial hand sanitizing gel. Use antibacterial cleaners or wipes on surfaces in your home or workplace frequently. Take special care not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands are clean, as this is where cold and flu viruses typically enter your body.
- Take good care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your immune system strong. Get plenty of sleep and avoid stress. You may also consider taking supplements such as Life Brand Echinacea Purpurea 1200 mg which can help to relieve the symptoms and shorten the duration of colds. And, stay warm - some people carry cold viruses without having symptoms, but getting chilled depresses immunity and allows viruses to thrive. And if you smoke, here’s another reason to quit – it has been shown that smoking increases the risk of infections.
- Get the flu shot. You need a new flu shot each year. Getting the flu shot cannot give you the flu, because the viruses in the vaccine are not live ones. The vaccine helps your body to produce antibodies which then protect you against current common flu strains. Everyone should get a flu shot, as early as it is available. But it’s really important for people at high risk for flu-related complications such as: children 5 years of age and older, older adults (65+), residents of nursing or long term care homes, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart, lung or kidney disease and pregnant women. People who live and work with sick people should also get the flu shot.
- Avoid sick people. If someone you know is sick or shows symptoms, avoid them until they are well. If it’s someone you work with, encourage them to stay home – they will likely get better faster, as well as not infecting more people. If it’s a family member and you cannot avoid them, then make sure you follow the other tips above!