We all know those tell tale signs of Winter colds: our noses dripping like leaky taps, throats feeling sore, and those non stop sneezing fits. In worse cases, we can get fevers and feel completely wiped out.
Sound familiar? Welcome to December, January and February – the three months of the year where we’re much more open to catching colds, the flu, and all sorts of winter illnesses.
The thing to note is that it’s important to identify the difference between a common cold, and coming down with the flu. Colds can last anything from 24 hours to 5 days when at their peak, which can sometimes drag on longer with symotoms like a sniffly nose, a tickling cough or watering eyes,. The flu – which is slightly worse – can have you bed ridden with temperatures and achy bones, along with sore throats, migraines and painful ears.
But while colds and flu can in many cases look a lot alike, there are some predictable differences. For one thing, expect a cold to take a few days to build up, while the flu comes on more abruptly. Sometimes the flu can make you go from well to very sick in a few minutes.
Cold and flu symptoms
As mentioned above, a cold typically lasts about three to five days, while a flu tends to linger about twice that long. If you have a cough that produces a lot of fluid or mucous, you have a sore throat and you’re sneezing or dealing with a runny nose or head congestion, all of those symptoms are more typical of colds, he says.
One of the tricky symptoms is that of your ears. It’s quite possible to struggle with ears that feel ‘clogged up’ – or suffer from slight loss of hearing – when you have both a common cold or the flu. It tends to be that the worse your head cold symptoms like watering eyes and blocked noses, the more prone to ear problems you may get.
So what can you do about ear problems when you’re falling poorly? The worst symptoms tend to come to those who have had a large build up of wax in their ears to begin with. Then, when your nose and eyes become troubled, the pressure can lead to your ears becoming blocked. The more wax you originally had, the worse this will feel.
The best way to treat this is to look into ear wax removal beforehand if you’re prone to a severe build up. A good place to start is by looking at Auris Ear Care who can professionally carry out ear wax removal. Honestly, it’s shocking when you realise just how much ear wax can build up, and the harm it can do when you get run down!
When are colds more common?
The timing of your symptoms can also be revealing. Colds are most common to start in Autumn, with the number of people suffering rising in December, January and February. But they’re a year-round concern. They are somewhat more common in winter when people commonly gather indoors.
The different here between catching a cold or being struck down with the flu is that you can catch a cold any time, whereas the flu is usually confined to its winter schedule.
While the common cold and flu can seem quite alike, there’s one very important distinction: one is deadly, and the other is not. Studies from the US show that Influenza kills about 35,000 Americans per year, whereas colds rarely cause lasting harm. For the most vulnerable people—which includes those with weakened immune systems, the very old and babies born prematurely—the flu is a common cause of pneumonia and death.
How to slow down the spreading of the flu
Because of these risks, and because the symptoms of colds and flu can be hard to tell apart, experts say that it’s vital for people to take steps to prevent the spread of these viruses. When you are sick with the flu or a cold, your mucus, saliva and everything coming from your nose, mouth and throat down to your lungs is teeming with millions of highly infectious virus particles. Sneezing, coughing or any other activities that transfer your mucous to your environment could make other people sick.
If you’re feeling unwell, the best thing you can do is to isolate yourself until your symptoms go away. If you go to work, the store or take the subway, you are likely to spread the illness. If you have to leave the house, avoid touching your mouth or nose, wash your hands frequently and try to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm.