Flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy. Flu has a whole lot of symptoms and they can vary wildly from having no symptoms at all, to serious illness that needs hospital treatment.
In healthy people, flu is unpleasant but usually self-limiting and people recover within 5-7 days. It is however possible to develop complications and every year people die as a result of flu. It can be especially dangerous for young children and children of any age who have certain long term health conditions, including asthma. The other group of people that have a high risk of developing complications is the elderly.
So, how do you decide if you have flu or just a cold? Take a few moments to read on and decide.
Do flu and a cold have anything in common?
Flu and the common cold are the same as they are both respiratory illnesses however they are caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by influenza viral strains and the common cold is caused by a rhinovirus.
How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
Firstly, listen to your body. As colds and flu share many symptoms, it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to differentiate between them based on symptoms alone. There are special tests that usually must be done within the first few days that you are ill to tell you if you have the flu.
How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?
If you have flu you may be able to infect others by shedding virus from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. In case of severe illness and if you have a weakened immune system you can shed virus for longer, and might be still contagious past 5 to 7 days of being sick, especially if you still have symptoms.
Unsure about whether you have flu or a cold?
Visit your doctor as soon as possible
Now that flu season is here, it's a good time to remember that although prevention through vaccination is the best line of defence against flu, treatment options are available and should be given as soon as possible, especially to high-risk patients.
If you are unsure about whether you have flu or a cold visit your doctor as soon as possible, as treatment for flu is more effective if started sooner than later.
Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) [Available online] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
About Flu [Available online] http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/93082
The Flu: A Guide for Parents [Available online] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/a-flu-guide-for-parents.pdf
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