The weather may be unseasonably pleasant but that doesn’t mean the flu isn’t around. It’s easy to be misled about the causes the influenza – the flu as it’s better known – or the cold (or the difference between them) with so many “wisdom gems” and friends’ advice out there. There is a good chance some of the information you have may be wrong.
Both cold and flu are contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract that make you cough and give you headache. But congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are associated with colds, while the flu brings high fever for possibly days, tiredness, as your body feels weak and physically may hurt.
A cold is milder than the flu and one can’t turn into the other because they are caused by different viruses. Cold symptoms last for about 5-7 days while those of the flu can linger for several weeks. If cold symptoms begin quickly and are improving after a week, then it is usually a cold, not allergy.
The cold is called “common” for a reason. Approximately 22 million school days are lost each year in the United States due to the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 100 different viruses can cause it.
Cold symptoms also include runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing and the best way to avoid it is by practicing good hygiene. The flu, on the other hand, includes symptoms like shaking chills, dry coughing, fever, body aches and the best way to prevent it if by getting the flu vaccine.
Avoiding the common or seasonal viral infections – or getting better if you are already sick – starts with setting the record about the facts and myths related to the cold or flu straight.
1. The flu vaccine can cause the flu
Let’s just get the big one out of the way first. This myth has been around for ages. Flu shots are made with dead viruses or without any viruses at all. So you’ can’t catch the flu from a flu shot because the inactivated virus in the shot can’t transmit the disease. Because it takes a few weeks for the vaccine to start protecting your body, people who get sick in those few weeks think the shot caused the illness. It is true, however, that the flu shot may cause flu-like – but mild – symptoms such as feeling tired and muscle ache.
2. You can’t spread the illness before you get any symptoms
This is another big myth. Just because you don’t have symptoms right away doesn’t mean that the virus is not in you. That’s why it’s important to know that you can pass it to someone before you feel sick. So practice good hygiene. It can take up to a week for you to start feeling bad and you are most contagious during the first 2-3 days. Between 20 and 30 percent of people with the flu virus don’t experience symptoms.