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Cold & Flu

Cold & Flu

Most people assume that the common cold is a virus that attacks the respiratory system and that people are more susceptible to getting sick in winter. However, the common cold is actually a syndrome that occurs when the body’s own immune system reacts to foreign invaders (i.e. germs).1 There are over 200 different viruses that can cause a common cold. The symptoms associated with the cold aren’t actually effects of the virus itself – they are a result of the body’s reaction to the invading viruses and include:2

  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sinus pressure and pain

The infection caused by the virus can be spread in a number of different ways, such as:

  • Physical contact with another child or adult who has a cold
  • Physical contact with a contaminated item that was previously touched by someone who has a cold
  • Breathing in germs from someone who is coughing or sneezing

It is important to know that cooler weather does not increase the chances of getting a cold. The increased prevalence is actually associated with the close contact and amount of time spent indoors during the winter months.

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What causes a cold or flu?

Cold and flus are caused when your immune system identifies a foreign invader that is considered to be harmful to the body and the body reacts by deploying defenses.6 The attack can result in nasal and sinus inflammation, which is the major cause of congestion in the nasal area.

The symptoms of a cold and flu will only go away once the body stops fighting against the invaders.8 Sometimes the virus may even have left the body before the symptoms are relieved.

 

How do I treat cold and flu?

There is no cure for a common cold nor the flu but the symptoms can be relieved.11 As the mucus production begins to increase because of the body’s natural fighting mechanism, it is important to start treating other symptoms as soon as they become apparent.12

Ibuprofen is a drug that can help reduce headaches, treat soreness and relieve pain throughout the body

  1. Ibuprofen helps relieve the pain signals that the body sends out due to the viral invasion

Ibuprofen can help relieve pain and fever associated with cold and flu.

 

How can I relieve my cold and flu symptoms?

Here are some useful tips to help you manage your cold or flu15 16

  • Take pain relieving medications, like ibuprofen
  • Gargle warm water or buy some lozenges to ease the sore throat
  • Use a hot water bottle or heating pad to relieve some of the muscle pain
  • Use saline drops or spray to clear a congested nose
  • Rest - will provide your body with the energy to fight the infection
  • Stay at home - avoiding contact with others is important as the flu is highly contagious
  • Drink fluids - these are needed to replace those lost due to fevers and sweating

 

How can I help avoid catching a cold or flu?

Here are some top tips to help you avoid getting a cold or flu:17

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after contact with others
  • Avoid touching your nose and eyes, as they are the most common places for germs to get in
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly to help enhance immune functions
  • Avoid close contact with those who are experiencing cold and flu symptoms

 

When should I see a doctor?

It is best to see a doctor when the following symptoms occur:20

  • Vomiting
  • Intense headaches
  • Paleness and sleepiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • No improvements in condition are shown in 48 hours
  • Other distressing signs that wouldn’t normally occur

If you’re unsure if a medication is suitable, or if you have any queries, talk to your pharmacist or doctor and they’ll provide you with further information about over-the-counter treatments for the symptoms of cold and flu.

 

References:

  1. Advil US, What Causes Cold Symptoms, [Accessed 22 December 2016] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/what-causes-cold-symptoms
  2. Advil US, What Causes Cold Symptoms, [Accessed 22 December 2016] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/what-causes-cold-symptoms
  3. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
  4. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
  5. Better Health Victoria, Flu (Influenza), [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza
  6. Advil US, Adult Cold Vs. Flu Symptoms, [Accessed 20 September 2019] https://www.advil.ca/resources/article/it-cold-or-flu?cid=261
  7. Advil US, What Causes Cold Symptoms, [Accessed 22 December 2016] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/what-causes-cold-symptoms
  8. Advil US, What Causes Cold Symptoms, [Accessed 22 December 2016] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/what-causes-cold-symptoms
  9. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
  10. Better Health Victoria, Flu (Influenza), [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza
  11. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
  12. Advil US, What Causes Cold Symptoms, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/what-causes-cold-symptoms
  13. Advil US, Remedies for Colds, [Accessed 22 December 2016] https://www.advil.ca/resources/article/remedies-colds?cid=83
  14. Advil US, Treating the Common Cold, [Accessed 07 January 2017] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/treating-common-cold
  15. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
  16. Better Health Victoria, Flu (Influenza), [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza
  17. Advil US, Cold and Flu: Do’s and Don’t’s, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://respiratory.advil.com/relief-center/common-cold-flu/cold-and-flu-dos-and-donts
  18. Better Health Victoria, Flu (Influenza), [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza
  19. Better Health Victoria, Flu (Influenza), [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/flu-influenza
  20. Better Health Victoria, Colds, [Accessed 06 January 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds