You start sneezing. Your throat gets sore and scratchy. You have to blow your nose a lot. You don’t feel very well. Do you have cold? Or do you have the flu?
Colds and flu are illnesses caused by germs. They are both caused by germs called viruses. But they are caused by different kinds of viruses. Colds are often called common colds. Flu is short for influenza.
IS IT A COLD OR THE FLU?
Signs that you have a cold or the flu are called symptoms. The symptoms of a cold and the symptoms of the flu are slightly different.
The symptoms of a cold are sore throat, cough, sneezing, and a stuffy, runny nose. Colds usually do not cause a fever.
Flu symptoms are like cold symptoms, but the flu also causes chills, fever, and headaches. It makes you feel tired and achy all over.
A cold or the flu usually lasts about a week. Every once in a while they can lead to a more serious sickness, such as an ear infection or a lung infection called pneumonia.
CATCHING A COLD OR THE FLU
People once thought you could catch a cold from getting a chill in cold weather. They thought that wet feet or drafts of cold air could give you a cold.
We now know that germs cause colds and flu. The germs are passed from one person to another. They travel in coughs and sneezes.
More colds and cases of flu happen in cold weather because people spend more time together indoors when it’s cold outside. It is easier for germs to spread when people are close together.
IS THERE A CURE?
There is no cure for the common cold. People take medicine to help their sore throats, coughs, and runny noses. Doctors say that resting in bed is the best way to treat a cold.
There is no cure for the flu, either. Doctors can give medicine to make you feel better. Resting in bed and drinking lots of juice and water is the best way to treat the flu.
AVOIDING A COLD OR THE FLU
You can get a flu shot to help keep you from catching the flu. A flu shot, or vaccination, helps your body fight off flu germs if they attack. But it doesn’t always work. The flu virus keeps changing. When it changes, the old vaccine no longer works. Doctors have to keep making new vaccines. For this reason, you need a new flu shot every year. Sometimes the flu changes enough in a single year that you can still catch it even if you’ve been vaccinated.
There is no vaccine against the common cold because more than 100 different kinds of viruses cause colds. These viruses also keep changing.
One thing you can do to protect against cold and flu germs is wash your hands before you eat anything or touch your face. Your hands may pick up the germs from door knobs or other things touched by someone with a cold. Washing your hands thoroughly kills the germs.
You can also try not to spread germs when you have a cold or the flu. Use tissues when you sneeze. Cover your mouth when you cough. And wash your hands frequently to keep from spreading cold germs to others.