Although they both make you feel bad, there is a difference between a cold and influenza, or as it's more commonly called, “the flu”. Influenza and the common cold both have symptoms that affect the throat and nose but influenza symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms. These symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose sore throat and cough. Other symptoms of influenza affect the whole body such as headache, tiredness, body aches, fever and chills. Symptoms of influenza usually start one to three days after coming into contact with an individual who is ill with influenza. Most people feel better after several days but cough and tiredness may last two weeks or more. Stomach cramps and diarrhea are not typical symptoms of influenza.
How to treat influenza
For the quickest recovery from influenza get plenty of rest; drink fluids like juice, water or hot tea; and take an aspirin substitute for muscle aches and fever (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms – and particularly fever – without first speaking to your doctor). Do not give any medication, including over-the-counter remedies, to a child without first consulting with your pediatrician. If a fever lasts more than three or four days see a doctor. A doctor can also prescribe certain antiviral medications. These medications may make symptoms milder if taken within one to two days of when symptoms begin.
Who is at risk of complications from the flu?
- People 65 years and older;
- People 50 to 64 years of age that have one or more medical conditions that place them at increased risk for serious flu complications;
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house those with long-term illnesses;
- Adults and children six months and older with chronic heart or lung conditions including asthma;
- Adults and children six months and older who needed regular medical care or were in a hospital during the previous year because of a metabolic disease (like diabetes) chronic kidney disease or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicines or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
- Children six months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy. Children given aspirin while they have influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome;
- Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- All children six to 23 months of age;
- People with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions (that is a condition that makes it hard to breathe or swallow such as brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders or other nerve or muscle disorders.)
- Understand how the virus is transmitted and what can be done to prevent spread.
- If you are in the high risk groups get an annual flu shot.
- If you and your family are healthy people aged 5-49 years who are not pregnant you can request the nasal-spray flu vaccine from your doctor.
- Clean work surfaces frequently and thoroughly (including the phone) with alcohol-based cleaning wipes or disinfectant spray.
- Keep tissues at your workspace and follow proper “sneeze and cough” protocols; use them to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer if you do not have access to water.
- Know your employer’s sick leave policies and expectations about coming to work when not feeling well.
- Keep current with the information being released on influenza from the CDC and the County Health Department (see links below).
- Discuss with your coworkers what can be done to address possible staffing shortages from the flu and develop a plan.
- Create a plan for how your family will deal with the flu. It should include important phone numbers, a list of current medications your family is taking, and what your children should do if they get sick at school and cannot reach you.