Colds and the flu: Symptoms and treatment

You’ve been taking your vitamins, eating your vegetables, exercising and trying hard to get enough shut-eye – and even so, that tickle in your throat tells you your body’s about to do battle with another cold or flu virus. But which one is it, and what should you do to lessen the symptoms? Read on for tips on the best cold and flu treatment options.
Is it a cold or the flu?
In a certain sense, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a cold or the flu – either way, your body’s telling you that it needs a break to heal, and it’s best to stay home as much as possible to avoid spreading the virus to others. But the flu is definitely a more serious illness, especially in children and the elderly, and warrants special care and treatment.
Generally, colds start with a runny nose, nasal congestion, mild cough and dry, scratchy throat, says Denise C. Marion, RN, a nurse practitioner at South-East Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community. Most of the time, the symptoms are a nuisance but not incapacitating. Flu, on the other hand, comes on suddenly and “boom – it leaves you feeling wiped,” says Marion. Along with extreme fatigue come chills and fever, aches and pains and headache.
Although it’s not always possible to tell colds and the flu apart, says Marion, the strongest signs it’s the flu are the sudden onset, muscle aches and fatigue, while symptoms more in line with colds include sneezing and nasal congestion.
Cold and flu treatment
Only your immune system can cure a cold or flu, so treatment options should focus on relieving symptoms and strengthening your body’s defenses. “I think the most important thing is resting so that your body can fight off whatever it is that’s starting to take hold,” says Blossom Bitting, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Sage Health Centre in Moncton, N.B. And the sooner you slow down, the better. “If you catch it early enough, your chances of getting rid of it faster are better,” she says.
Bitting and Marion agree that the most important component of cold or flu treatment is to slow down and take care of yourself, not to just mask the symptoms with drugs and maintain your normal pace of life. They recommend the following:
• Get plenty of rest – listen to your body, even if it wants to sleep all day
• Stay home from work or school whenever possible, both for your own health and to avoid infecting others
• Drink plenty of fluids such as water, tea or watery soups; this “helps to keep your chest and nasal secretions loose,” says Marion
• Eat healthy whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables; avoid excess sugars and fats, caffeine and alcohol
• Try supplementing with vitamin C and echinacea; it’s a hard thing to prove definitively, but studies have shown them to have a positive effect
• Increase humidity levels
• Avoid cigarette smoke

You’ve been taking your vitamins, eating your vegetables, exercising and trying hard to get enough shut-eye – and even so, that tickle in your throat tells you your body’s about to do battle with another cold or flu virus. But which one is it, and what should you do to lessen the symptoms? Read on for tips on the best cold and flu treatment options.
Is it a cold or the flu?In a certain sense, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a cold or the flu – either way, your body’s telling you that it needs a break to heal, and it’s best to stay home as much as possible to avoid spreading the virus to others. But the flu is definitely a more serious illness, especially in children and the elderly, and warrants special care and treatment.
Generally, colds start with a runny nose, nasal congestion, mild cough and dry, scratchy throat, says Denise C. Marion, RN, a nurse practitioner at South-East Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community. Most of the time, the symptoms are a nuisance but not incapacitating. Flu, on the other hand, comes on suddenly and “boom – it leaves you feeling wiped,” says Marion. Along with extreme fatigue come chills and fever, aches and pains and headache.
Although it’s not always possible to tell colds and the flu apart, says Marion, the strongest signs it’s the flu are the sudden onset, muscle aches and fatigue, while symptoms more in line with colds include sneezing and nasal congestion.
Cold and flu treatmentOnly your immune system can cure a cold or flu, so treatment options should focus on relieving symptoms and strengthening your body’s defenses. “I think the most important thing is resting so that your body can fight off whatever it is that’s starting to take hold,” says Blossom Bitting, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Sage Health Centre in Moncton, N.B. And the sooner you slow down, the better. “If you catch it early enough, your chances of getting rid of it faster are better,” she says.
Bitting and Marion agree that the most important component of cold or flu treatment is to slow down and take care of yourself, not to just mask the symptoms with drugs and maintain your normal pace of life. They recommend the following:
• Get plenty of rest – listen to your body, even if it wants to sleep all day
• Stay home from work or school whenever possible, both for your own health and to avoid infecting others
• Drink plenty of fluids such as water, tea or watery soups; this “helps to keep your chest and nasal secretions loose,” says Marion
• Eat healthy whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables; avoid excess sugars and fats, caffeine and alcohol
• Try supplementing with vitamin C and echinacea; it’s a hard thing to prove definitively, but studies have shown them to have a positive effect
• Increase humidity levels
• Avoid cigarette smoke



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