By now, summer is all but a memory and the cold winter air will soon blow in. Snuffly noses and hacking coughs will ring through staff rooms and school cafeterias; the loud, barking cry which foretells the coming of Cold and Flu Season. You’re one of the lucky few if you don’t get sidelined by at least a cold during the winter, because recycled air and lack of fresh air is like a welcome mat to the cold virus.
Even if you do all you can to protect yourself – including frequent hand washing bordering on “see-a-therapist” levels – chances are either you or someone in your household is going to get a cold or flu. But there are plenty of ways to protect yourself, and they include using tissues for sneezes, eating properly and avoiding sugar to maintain immune function, and, for some, getting a flu shot. Getting a cold sucks, but even while under the weather with the sniffles you can usually operate at an almost-normal level. The flu however, is a whole new ballgame. I had “THE FLU” in 2011. They were dark days, friends. It was like nothing I’ve had before or since, and I wasn’t 100% for several weeks afterwards.
Cold or Flu?
With a cold you say, “Oh! I have concert tickets this weekend, so I better get some extra sleep and maybe up my vitamin C so these pesky cold symptoms subside.” With the flu you say, “ASHIOH:IUGJBLKdl.jhkb; cough cough ajkdbdfgf hack hack hackety hack COUGH!” You can barely speak because your brain is busy trying to figure out what the hell this pain is in your chest and why am I wracked with horrible chest convulsions? Any additional energy you can summon goes to giving serious consideration to peeing right here in this bed, dammit because there is no way you’re going to walk to the bathroom all the way over there without fainting.
Cold = Ugh. This sucks.
Flu = Dear whatever holy entity is listening, take me now.
Cold and Flu Home Treatment
General cold and flu protocol calls simply for treatment of symptoms. They’re both viruses, so you can’t kill them with antibiotics, although progress is being made with flu treatment antiviral drugs. You need to start taking it within a very short time of onset of symptoms, but this can be difficult because with the flu you often go from laughing on a lunch date with friends to looking up “how to make my end plans” on the Googler. The flu hits you hard and fast and you can be coughing and feverish in a very short time. Comfort can be had to a certain degree by using cold compresses for hot foreheads, lukewarm baths to reduce fever – but NOT cool water, lots of warm liquids like tea and warm cider, or the old stand-by, chicken soup. Mild fevers can usually be left to run their course, and by allowing the body to experience some fever you are letting the immune system do its job by heating up to kill viruses. However, the “hit-by-a-bus” pain that can accompany flu can be treated. Call the doctor or your pharmacist to see is ibuprofen or acetaminophen is the right choice for you or the patient, especially if the sicko is a child.
Here’s a handy printable chart to help distinguish between cold and flu this season, as well as some quick tips on treating these illness. Let’s all promise to wash our hands and cough into our sleeves if we meet in the doctor’s waiting room, shall we?