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Common Cold or Flu?

Por Carola Sixto -

Since they both affect the nose and throat, they can be easily confused. However, there are marked differences between these two conditions. Learn to identify them and discover which foods can help strengthen your immune system to prevent them. 

Every time we start sneezing or get a sore throat we ask ourselves the same question: is it just a cold or could it be the flu? The question is more than reasonable, since the flu can have serious complications and it’s essential to consult a doctor.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the main differences between these two conditions are:
• Fever: With the flu, there can be fever during three or four days; if it’s a cold, fever is rare.
• Headache, weakness and general discomfort: All these symptoms are frequent with the flu.
• Stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat: Appear frequently with common colds, but rarely with the flu.
• Coughing and chest discomfort: In common cold, it may be mild to moderate, even a dry cough may occur. In flu, there may be chest pain and coughs that can worsen and become severe.

Irreconciliable Differences
The flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, bronchial tube, and lungs. It can be caused by three different types of viruses: influenza A, B, and C. Type A is the worst of the three because it may be responsible for worldwide, death-causing epidemics. To prevent it, vaccination is recommended once a year.

Common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system, which includes nose and throat. Most adults catch a cold between two and four times a year, while children get around six to ten colds a year. This condition is caused by at least 200 different types of viruses, so the symptoms may vary. The most common ones are: runny nose, sore throat, mild body aches or mild headache, coughing, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, fever (102ºF or 39ºC), and fatigue.

Adequate Nutrition
Since in both conditions the body has to fight against a virus, a healthy diet can help by providing the necessary elements to strengthen your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s important to drink enough liquids, preferably water, juice or soups, in order to prevent dehydration; rest to help the immune system fight the infection, and eat chicken soup to relieve congestion. In addition, if you have the flu you may also take some supplements:

• Echinacea: This herb is used to strengthen the body’s immune system. It helps relieve the symptoms of a cold or shortens its duration.
• Vitamin C: Taking up to 6 grams of this vitamin per day may help reduce the duration of a cold.
• Zinc: Nasal sprays or zinc supplements at the beginning of a cold may help improve the symptoms.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Mayo Clinic.


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