Cold or Flu?
Your survival guide for the sniffly, sneezy, achy, queasy season.
The runny nose, the scratchy throat, the truck-ran-over-me feeling. It must
be cold and flu season.
The tricky thing is knowing which one you have. The flu especially is
nothing to sneeze at. "People often don't realize the flu is a pretty
serious illness," Tracy Wimbush, MD, an emergency room doctor at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, tells WebMD. Each year, 10% to 20% of
Americans succumb to it, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized for it, and
36,000 die from the flu and its complications. For elderly people, newborn
babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, such as cancer or heart
problems, the flu and its complications can be life-threatening.
The cold, while less dangerous, can still make a person feel pretty
miserable. And there's a reason why it's often referred to as "common":
Each year, people living in the United States suffer 1 billion colds, according
to some estimates. In addition, more than 110 distinct viruses are known to
cause the common cold. That's why there isn't a cold vaccine -- it's just too
complicated to create.
We've spelled out the basics here to give you an idea of which nasty bug
you've picked up and how you can feel better, faster. We've also included the
best prevention tips around to help you remain cold- and flu-free this