What are colds, coughs, and flu (influenza)?
A cold is the most common disease in the world. It is a contagious viral infection
of the upper respiratory passages including the nose, throat, and sinuses. A cold
can also affect the ears and lungs.
Flu is also a contagious viral infection. It affects the nose, throat, and lungs.
Flu outbreaks occur in the late fall and winter with varying degrees of severity.
The disease spreads through communities creating an epidemic.
A cough is a symptom, not a disease, and is the body’s way of removing foreign material
or mucus from the lungs and upper airway passages. Coughs can either be acute or
chronic. Acute coughs begin suddenly and usually last no more than 2-3 weeks. Acute
coughs are the kind you most often get with a cold or flu. Chronic coughs last longer
than 2-3 weeks. Causes of chronic coughs include: asthma, allergies, COPD (chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease), GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease), smoking,
throat disorders, and some medicines. Coughs are either productive (produces phlegm
or mucus) or nonproductive (dry and does not produce mucus).
Viral Infections and Illnesses
What are the symptoms of colds, coughs, and flu (influenza)?
Cold symptoms start slowly. Most common symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, scratchy
or sore throat, coughing and sneezing, loss of voice, mild headache, fatigue, low-grade
fever and watering eyes.
Flu symptoms come on more suddenly and include higher fever, muscle aches, chills,
sweats, weakness, possible severe sore throat, cough, and chest discomfort.
Common Cold Vs. The Flu - Differences in Symptoms
What is the treatment for colds, coughs, and flu (influenza)?
There is not a cure for a cold or flu, but symptoms can be minimized. Cold or flu
sufferers should get extra rest and drink plenty of fluids. There are many over
the counter remedies which can help alleviate symptoms. To relieve nasal congestion,
use salt-water drops (1/2 tsp salt to 1 cup warm water). Put 2-3 drops of salt solution
into each nostril. To relieve a sore throat, gargle often with warm or cold double-strength
tea or salt water. Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture, and clean
Good and frequent hand washing can help to prevent spread of the germs. Covering
your cough is important as well. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age or
older should get a flu shot to prevent getting the flu. Visit a Take Care ClinicSM to get your flu shot.
Visit a Take Care Health Provider if your symptoms are more severe or you are at
risk for complications.
Since a cough is a symptom, not a disease, often the significance or cause of a
cough can only be determined when all other symptoms are evaluated by a healthcare