As we are well into the winter season, so are we well into the season of the cold and flu. Many symptoms of both are similar, but how can we tell the difference and what are the best ways to protect ourselves? Both occur at this time of year but the two illnesses are very different. It is typical for most people to get a cold every year, but generally we do not get the flu every year. There are several symptoms that differentiate the flu from the common cold. Usually the flu will begin quickly with a fever that can last for 24-48 hours; however it can last as long as five days. Other symptoms of the flu can include body aches, tiredness, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Usually after a few days of experiencing these symptoms they will subside, but a dry, hacking cough may begin and be accompanied by a sore throat, a runny nose and sneezing. Sometimes a headache will also be experienced. For most people these symptoms will dissipate in 4-5 days however the fever may return and the cough and feelings of weakness may continue. For people who suffer from asthma or heart disease the flu can sometimes worsen these conditions.
The common cold is not accompanied by a fever. It usually consists of a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and a cough or sore throat. Sometimes headaches are present due to congestion of the nasal passages. While the first symptom of the flu is an abruptly high fever; scratchiness in the back of the throat or an irritated, itchy nose are the first symptoms of a cold. In adults it is possible to have a low-grade fever, but generally a cold is not accompanied by one.
What can we do to arm ourselves against the flu or the cold? There are some great foods this time of the year that can help boost your immune system and fight off the flu or the cold. Foods high in vitamin D like salmon and mushrooms are good sources along with citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, and limes. Other helpful fruits to add to your diet are cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Other foods helpful to the immune system are whole-grains, yogurt, and an assortment of vegetables. Especially here in Buffalo, where sunlight is hard to find, we already can use extra boosts of vitamin D to our diet. If you feel you aren’t getting enough of it through your diet speak to your doctor about supplements. The medical staff at WNY Medical, PC can help recommend dietary supplements, flu vaccines, and other lines of defense to help ward off that common winter cold or flu. Visit our office at 4979 Harlem Rd. or call 923-4380 for an appointment.