When you get sick with a cold or flu, at first you may not be sure which you have. A cold is characterized by sneezing, runny nose, often sore throat, and maybe a cough. If you have a flu, you feel a lot sicker – typically with all these symptoms plus fever and muscle aches. You can go through your day with a cold even though you may not feel optimal. With the flu, you are more likely to take off work and go to bed.
Before you read further, these are caused by viruses, not bacteria. For that reason, antibiotics are not indicated; antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Natural remedies (mentioned below) may help by 15% or so. Nevertheless, you can find rapid relief by taking an eRemedy from https://www.eremedyonline.com/module/22/influenza/.
There are roughly 200 viruses implicated for the common cold, while there are only 2 major ones causing influenza. These viruses are airborne, and therefore very contagious. So staying away from crowds, keeping your hands away from your face, washing hands frequently throughout the day, and even wearing surgical masks are all effective in keeping them from spreading.
The actual pathophysiology (symptom-causing process) begins from the virus invading cells lining the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. These are RNA viruses which have very high mutation rates, so they change with practically every season! When they break open the cells, they release a variety of chemicals called cytokines and histamine. Even the white cells that try to gobble up the viruses are broken and release these chemicals. These chemicals create inflammation which cause vessels to dilate and then leak lots of phlegm. All this results in sneezing, raw membranes, and overuse of Kleenex.
Influenza begins similarly but spreads rapidly throughout the body causing muscle aches and fever and great weakness.
A typical cold lasts about a week, although there is a virus called RSV which may result in a cough for 3 or 4 weeks afterward even though the sickness is over. Influenza typically lasts 1 to 2 weeks, though weakness occasionally persists for more weeks afterward.
It is common for people who are relatively sedentary, not exercising regularly, to have 3 or 4 colds in a year, and maybe one episode of flu. People who get 8 hrssleep and who average 3.5 hours a week of vigorous exercise have been found to have half this frequency.
Children in daycare or preschool or who otherwise have frequent contact with other kids do go through a period of immune system training leading to colds twice a month for the first year, and once a month in the second year. This can inconvenience parents considerably, of course, but the good news is that they will miss less school once they are of school age.
In recent years, there have been epidemics of bird flu and to a lesser-extent swine flu which have produced severe illness and death. These ailments are essentially the same as routine influenza but more severe. They are also treated by appropriate eRemedies found at https://www.eremedyonline.com/module/22/influenza/.
One tip is to not take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to bring down the fever if you can stand it. Fever is the body’s natural mechanism to fight off viruses and bacteria, just like all other mammals on the planet. We are the only mammal that purposely lowers fever, thus prolonging the active illness and increasing the chances of secondary infection. Do not be afraid. The human body has an automatic shut-off valve in the hypothalamus that turns off fever at 106º.
Plenty of fluids are indicated during any fever, to fend off dehydration which can cause more complications including unnecessary fever.
There are also natural treatments that help somewhat to shorten the illness. Vitamin C in large quantities is one aid; Ester-C at the rate of 1000 mg an hour for an adult until stools turn soft, and then 4 times daily thereafter, can help gobble up viruses and flush them out. Zinc in doses found in many over-the-counter products help to strengthen mucous membranes and keep cells from breaking up so easily. Echinacea-Golden Seal four times daily sometimes helps once the flu starts; it is not good for preventing colds or flus. A new herb on the market shows promise: Andrographispaniculata.
There is a lot of marketing in the US selling flu shots to prevent influenza. Evidence by state health departments and the CDC suggest only a 15-25% effectiveness – with only one year reaching 40% -- while patients in some years report high incidences of flu-like symptoms immediately after taking the shot.
One comment about vaccines in general is that they should duplicate the route of acquisition of the illness itself. Flu is acquired through mucous membrane exposure, so the nasal vaccine makes more sense; it duplicates all the immune mechanisms rather than just one part of the system provoked by the shot.