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Nov 3, 2011

Is it a cold or the flu?


How do you know if it’s a cold or the flu?  Generally the flu causes a high fever with severe muscle aches and a dry severe cough.  Colds tend to be milder than the flu but can turn into a sinus infection or bronchitis if not dealt with early.  Please refer to the chart below. 

Cold vs Flu symptoms:                  Cold                              Flu
Fever                                                  rare/mild                                 high 102º or higher
Chills                                                   rare                                         yes
Headache                                          rare                                         yes
Muscle aches                                    mild                                         severe
Fatigue                                               mild                                         long lasting/extreme
Congested nose/sinuses                 often                                        yes
Runny nose                                        often                                        occasional
Sneezing                                            often                                        occasional
Sore throat                                         often                                        occasional
Cough                                                 mild/hacking                          severe, dry

Ninety percent of all colds are due to viral infections and the flu is also caused by a virus.  And antibiotics do not work for viral illnesses.  Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Overuse of antibiotics has created bacterial resistance.  So what should you do if you feel a cold coming on? 

Get as much rest as possible – Many people ignore the early signs of illness and keep working until they drop.  You will take longer to heal if you allow the illness to get a foothold.

Drink plenty of Fluids – Herbal teas such as licorice, elder, ginger, mullein and soups such as chicken or miso soup can help clear the bug out of you system.  We formulate a very good Cold & Flu tea that our patients love for winter.

Start taking anti-viral herbs as soon as possible.  A combination is the best.  These should include Echinacea, Astragalus, Licorice, Osha, Schisandra, Elderberry and Goldenseal.  Zinc (30 mg/day) has been shown to reduce the duration of a cold. The homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum can work very well for shortening your flu symptoms if taken the first 24 to 48 hrs of the onset of the flu.  

How can you reduce your susceptibility of getting a cold or flu? 

Wash your hands frequently.  As hand contact is a primary route of virus spreading.  Avoid shaking hands with people.  Also, keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes as much as possible. 

Keep your stress levels as low as possible.  Get sufficient rest and sleep.

Reduce and avoid smoking, alcohol and an unhealthy diet.  Cut back on sugar, white flour and refined carbohydrates as much as possible.

Take a good multiple vitamin with the antioxidants vitamin A, C, E and selenium.  Vitamin D and probiotics has been shown to be very effective in preventing the flu and building up one’s immune system.  

If possible limit the amount of time around sick people another reason to stay home when you’re sick to avoid infecting others. 

Dr. Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician specializing in natural medicine at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards, CO.  She can be reached at 970-926-7606, Wiancek@healthref.com or www.healthref.com.