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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Frequently Asked Questions About the Common Cold

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Maybe you're in the grips of a bad cold. Or perhaps you've got big plans coming up and can't afford to get sick. Either way, don't let urban legends be your source on treatment and prevention. We've got your questions covered.

1. What's the difference between a cold and the flu?

These illnesses are caused by different viruses. They have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell them apart. In general, cold symptoms are much milder than flu symptoms.

The symptoms of a cold include things like:

The flu, on the other hand, often causes higher fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue.

2. Why isn't there a cold vaccine?

The cold can be caused by nearly 250 different viruses. It's just too hard for scientists to make a vaccine that protects you against all of them.

Also, from a medical point of view, there's less need to create a vaccine for colds than other illnesses. Although you feel awful when you have one, they generally come and go without any serious complications. You're miserable for a few days, then it's over.

3. Could my cold symptoms actually be allergies?

It's possible, if you're sniffling but not achy or feverish.

Also, if your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, and you also have red, itchy eyes, it might be allergies.

But it's often hard to tell the difference because people with allergies and asthma are more likely to get colds. They may already have inflamed and irritated lungs, so they're less able to fight off a virus.

4. What's the best treatment for a cold?

The most important thing you can do is drink a lot of fluids to keep your body hydrated. This will help prevent another infection from setting in.

Avoid drinks with caffeine like coffee, tea, and colas. They may rob your body of fluids. When it comes to food, follow your appetite. If you're not really hungry, try simple things like white rice or broth.

Chicken soup is comforting, plus the steam helps break up nasal congestion. Ginger seems to settle an upset stomach. A hot toddy may help you sleep, but be careful about drinking alcohol if you also take cold remedies.

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