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WHAT ARE COLD AND FLU?

Cold, a very common illness is caused by rhinovirus, whereas flu, a severe form is caused by human influenza virus. Flu results in about 5 million deaths per year across the world. Every adult experiences symptoms of cold at least three times in a year while a child can show up with symptoms more frequently. Cold is highly infectious and it gets transmitted in no time, targeting the immune system.

Cold and flu are actually caused by the attack of virus and are usually present during the months of winter because of dry air which makes the nasal passages even drier. This allows viruses to favourably replicate inside the nasal passages. Viruses that are responsible for cold and flu are more stable in cold air because of low humidity, thereby remaining alive for longer period.

Respiratory tract infections can be classified into infections of both upper and lower respiratory tracts. URTI includes infections of nostrils, nasopharynx, larynx, trachea, sinuses. LRTI includes infections of bronchi (bronchitis), alveoli of lungs, pneumonia.

WHAT CAUSES COLD AND FLU?

Common cold is caused by various types of viruses, like rhinovirus, human corona virus, respiratory syncytial virus etc. Mostly, more than one virus is involved in causing the illness. The upper respiratory tract including nose, sinuses, larynx are usually affected. Common cold is usually transmitted via direct contact, airborne droplets or contaminated objects. The viruses usually stay in the environment for almost 18 to 20 hours and are carried by people. Symptoms usually occur due to the immune response of the virus. Inflammatory mediators are released when viruses bind to immune receptors in the body and these mediators produce symptoms. Risk is high in individuals with weak immune system and less hygiene.

On the other hand, flu is caused by influenza type A, B, C Viruses with type A being the most virulent and causing the severest form of the illness. Transmission is via droplets from cough and sneezes, contaminated surfaces, and direct contact. However, the virus can travel less distance only unlike other viruses. In contrast to rhinovirus causing common cold, the influenza virus does not produce symptoms only via inflammatory responses but also cause tissue damage.

Causes of URTIs and LRTIs could be due to viruses like coronavirus, adenovirus, rhinovirus and bacteria like Group A streptococcus, pollutants, pollen etc. or chronic ailments such as smoking, chronic exposure to chemicals, pollutants etc. People who are immunocompromised, or who use steroids for longer period are at greater risk of acquiring RTIs.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COLD AND FLU?

Symptoms of common cold include runny nose, sneezes, blocked stuffy nose, eye watering, headache, cough, sore throat, fatigue and loss of appetite. All or one of the symptoms appear 16 hours after exposure to the virus and stays for around 3 or 4 days depending upon immune response. In few people, cough can last for more than 10 days or even a month.

Symptoms of flu appear after 48 hours of exposure. Along with all symptoms of common cold, fever exists with high temperature between 100 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Individuals experience fever, chills, muscle aches, and tiredness. All the symptoms persist for almost a week. In severe cases, people produce symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fever with rash, gastro intestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea, which requires emergency medical care. Children with flu appear dull and show signs of dehydration like dry skin, no tears while crying, less urine output etc.

Symptoms of URTI and LRTI include rhinitis (running nose), sneezing, sore throat, cough, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, infections of ear, fever.

Should you contract cold book doctor appointment online to get relief at the earliest.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR COLD AND FLU?

As prevention is always better than cure, cold and flu can be prevented by simple physical measures like frequent hand washing, face masks, surface sanitizing, staying away from the people with symptoms and maintaining proper hygiene. Vaccination for influenza virus is recommended by WHO to all individuals, especially to high risk group like children, elderly and people who have asthma, diabetes, heart disease and immunocompromised.

Few remedies like drinking boiled water, salt water gargling for sore throat, steam inhalation, drinking plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. Cold weather and cold foods, though not causative, aggravate symptoms in some people. Therefore, it is better to avoid going out in cold weather and consuming cold foods. Symptomatic relief can be achieved by antihistamines, nasal decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes may require antibiotics and antiviral drugs.

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