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Cold or flu? Which do you have?

Cold and flu season is upon us. Can you spot the difference between the two?

We have all dragged to work feeling wiped and achy; nose dripping and sneezing, much to the chagrin of our co-workers; and you regret coming in to the office.
You head home to curl up in bed, but are you just fighting a seasonal cold, or have you been hit by the dreaded flu? Chances are you have a cold, but it can be difficult to distinguish the difference. Each has similar symptoms and both are contagious.
While colds and flu can look alike, there are several differences. They are both respiratory illnesses, but are caused by different viruses. Colds are usually milder than flu and take a couple of days to come on, but the flu can hit quickly. Colds usually last three to five days, while the flu tends to hang on for up to three weeks. The flu is usually accompanied by headaches, body aches, extreme fatigue and weakness, chills and fever. With a cold, runny nose, head congestion, coughing and sneezing are usually present. Headaches and chills don’t usually come with a cold, nor does a fever.
Some people are at a greater risk of developing complications from the flu such as seniors, pregnant women, young children and people with chronic medical conditions. These people should check with their doctor right away.
Antiviral drugs can lesson flu symptoms and the length of time you are sick, and they can prevent more serious complications such as pneumonia which could lead to a hospital stay. These meds are prescriptions and can only be received with a prescription. They are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists recommend getting a flu vaccine at this time of year. Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for the vaccine. Health professionals agree that the vaccine is the first and best way to prevent the flu, while antiviral drugs are a second option if you do become sick. Antiviral drugs are the most effective when started within a couple of days of getting sick.
That being said, most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs. Plenty of rest, keeping up with fluids, staying home and away from others and time will take care of things in most every case. A hospital visit may only be in order if you are in a high risk category, or if you have difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or belly, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or flu symptoms that get worse rather than better.
Getting the flu vaccine and practicing everyday preventative measures are the best way to stop the spread of flu germs. Avoiding contact with sick people, staying home if sick, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, washing  your hands often with soap and water, avoiding  touching your eyes, nose and mouth and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs.
Your local pharmacist can provide you with additional information and recommendations on how to avoid and combat the flu, as well; they can administer the flu vaccine.

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