A Cold, The Flu Or Something More Serious

Published: 08th May 2009
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Getting a cold or the flu is a common problem. We often go to extremes to ensure that we don't get sick; but the inevitable will happen, and life will be unpleasant for a few days. You can't catch the same cold or flu virus twice, but they are constantly mutating and each new strain may feel slightly different. When you get sick they all feel bad, but you may not know if you have a cold, the flu or something more sinister right away. There are many illnesses that can display similar symptoms, but almost all of them aren't dangerous unless you have a compromised immune system. Some people go to the doctor with the slightest sniffle, and others won't go to the doctor even on their deathbed.

A cold virus usually presents itself 3 or 4 days after you have caught it and starts with a soar back of the nose or throat. Keep in mind that each person's reaction is different and it could be a little shorter or longer for you. Symptoms come on slowly over the course of several hours and may not feel full blown until you wake up the following morning. Coughing, sneezing, congestion and minor muscle aches are common for a cold and the flu. You are contagious within hours of catching it so you can give it to someone else days before you even know you have it, and you stay contagious for about a week. The symptoms are at their worst about 2 days after you start to feel it and will last around 48 hours, but you may remain congested for up to 2 weeks.

The flu virus is very much like a cold, but with a few added bonuses. The most noticeable difference is that the flu comes with a fever and a cold doesn't, so if you have a fever you don't have a cold. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can also accompany the flu and the symptoms will come on much faster than a cold; maybe even in minutes. You don't start to feel bad for about 3 days after you get the flu, but just like a cold, you are contagious before you even know you have it. Also like a cold, the worst of it lasts about 48 hours but the symptoms can linger for up to 2 weeks. The flu can be very dangerous to the elderly, young children and people with compromised immune systems or heart disease, so see your doctor if you know you're a high risk.

Infections and other diseases can display symptoms very much like a cold or the flu; but unlike a cold or the flu, they won't get better in a few days. You know it's time to see a doctor if you keep getting worse 4 days after you start having symptoms. A fever is common with the flu, but if your temperature goes above 102 it's time to get to the hospital right away. You may also consider a trip to your doctor if any of the symptoms seem unusually severe; like serious pain in your sinuses or coughing that nearly knocks you over. You can usually tell if something feels far worse than what you would expect from a common cold or the flu.

There are many over the counter medications that can help alleviate the symptoms, but there is no cure for the most common ailments we face every year. The rates at which these two viruses mutate make them impossible to get rid of completely and they will continue to plague us for a long time to come. If you need to go to the doctor or the hospital for an emergency, a good health insurance plan or a discount plan like Ameriplan will help with the cost; but they won't make you feel any better. No one wants to go to the doctor with an illness too late, but we also feel bad rushing to the hospital only to find out it's a just a cold. A little common sense can help keep you healthy so long as you are willing to visit the doctor when you need to, and stay home when you don't.

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