Cold or Flu?
Your survival guide for the sniffly, sneezy, achy, queasy season.
An Ounce of Prevention ...
Even though there's no cure for a cold or the flu, you can do a lot to ward
off both. Keep these tips in mind during the winter season:
Wash Your Hands
Cold and flu germs are spread by touch. You rub your nose, then touch the
telephone. Those germs live long enough for someone else to pick them up.
"You can really help prevent colds and flu with good hand washing, or using
an alcohol-based gel if you don't have access to water," says Wimbush.
Also, wash your hands after blowing your nose, she advises. "Even [using] a
tissue, you're still getting some droplets on your hands and touching
Every time you walk or run, you're boosting your body's immunity, the natural
defense mechanism against viruses. Exercise outdoors, where fresh air will
soothe nasal passages dried by central heating.
Eat Your Vegetables
A well-nourished immune system is better able to fight off infections, so fuel
it with natural vitamins and antioxidants found in healthy foods. Eat
dark-green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits, which are packed with
numerous antioxidants, plus vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene.
A daily dose of yogurt (low-fat is best for your cholesterol levels) may help
prevent colds. Researchers believe that the beneficial bacteria in yogurt can
fight some cold viruses, possibly by stimulating production of immune system
substances that fight disease.
Get a Flu Shot
Flu activity in the United States generally peaks between late December and
early March, so it's not too late to get a flu shot in January. Note that
antibodies develop in your body and provide protection about two weeks after
you get the shot.
How effective is the flu shot? The vaccine prevents the flu in about 70% to 90%
of healthy people younger than 65. For elderly people living outside
chronic-care facilities (such as nursing homes) and people with long-term
medical conditions, the flu shot is 30% to 70% effective.
You can also ask your doctor about prescription flu drugs, which may help
shorten recovery time. They must be taken within two days after flu symptoms
first appear. They can also help prevent the flu if you have been exposed to
someone with the flu, like a sick family member.
Is It a Cold or the Flu?
||Sometimes, usually mild
||Usual; high (100-102 F; occasionally higher,
especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
|General Aches, Pains
||Usual; often severe
||Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
||Usual; at the beginning of the illness
|Chest Discomfort, Cough
||Mild to moderate; hacking cough
||Common; can become severe
|Sinus congestion; middle ear infection
||Bronchitis; pneumonia; can be
|Wash your hands often; avoid close contact
with anyone with a cold
||Annual vaccination; antiviral medicine - see
||All listed at left; plus antiviral drugs -
see your doctor