Learn the difference and how to protect yourself
How is a cold different from the flu? A cold and the flu (influenza) are two different illnesses. A cold is relatively harmless and usually clears up by itself after a period of time, although sometimes it may lead to a secondary infection such as an ear infection. However, the flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia and even death. What may seem like a cold could, in fact, be the flu. Learn the differences in the table below.
Viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs cause illnesses like cold and flu. They’re usually spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. They also can spread when a person touches cold or flu viruses deposited by another person on a desktop, doorknob, desk, telephone receiver or handrail. Some viruses and bacteria can live for two hours or more on hard surfaces. If the person then touches his or her eyes, mouth, or nose before washing his or her hands, the viruses or bacteria enter the body and infection can occur.
Keep you and those around you healthy this flu season with these helpful tips:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on your desk or with you at all times.
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, wash your hands or rub sanitizer into them until they are dry.
- Clean your hands after using public transportation or conference room equipment.
- When soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based throwaway hand wipes or gel sanitizers. For the most effectiveness, make sure the product is at least 60 percent alcohol. If using a gel, rub it into your hands until they’re dry.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
- Keep your work surface clean. Use a household disinfectant to wipe down your desk, keyboard, computer mouse, telephone, and other objects you touch often. Follow the directions on the label.
- If possible, do not use co-workers’ offices, desk or supplies. If you need to use them, wipe them down with disinfectant first.
- Get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your community.
- Keep tissues on your desk and cough or sneeze into a tissue.
- Stay at home if you feel sick with flu-like symptoms like a fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Other symptoms can include runny nose, headache, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting. Contact your healthcare provider to find out whether you should be tested or treated for the flu.
- Stay at home at least 24 hours after your temperature stays below 100 degrees without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Some symptoms may remain.
- If you have a family member who has the flu but you feel well, it is safe to go to work. Check your health daily and stay home if you start to feel sick.
• Low or no fever
• Sometimes a headache
• Stuffy, runny nose
• Mild, hacking cough
• Slight aches and pains
• Mild fatigue
• Sore throat
• Normal energy level or may feel sluggish
• High fever
• Headache very common
• Clear nose
• Sometimes sneezing
• Cough, often becoming severe
• Often severe aches and pains
• Several weeks of fatigue
• Sometimes a sore throat
• Extreme exhaustion
A simple way to keep the flu away
The single best way to avoid the flu is to get a flu
vaccination each season.
Who should get the vaccine?
The flu shot is approved for people older than six months. Children younger than six months of age should not be immunized against the flu, as flu vaccines haven’t been approved for that age group. Some adults who are at higher risk for flu because of age or compromised immune systems can request a higher strength
version of the flu vaccine. Check with your healthcare provider to
see if you need this type of vaccination.
Am I at high risk?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine, but some people are at an even higher risk for complications from the flu:
■ Children six months to 59 months (just under five years old)
■ Adults ages 50 and older
■ Anyone with a chronic disease
■ Anyone who lives in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
■ Healthcare workers
■ People who are often in contact with elderly adults or the chronically ill
■ Women who plan to be pregnant during flu season
Before you vaccinate
Talk with your healthcare provider first if you:
■ Have a severe allergy – like an anaphylactic reaction – to chicken eggs
■ Have previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu shot
■ Currently have an illness with a fever
Wiping out myths
We’ve all learned you can’t always believe what you read (or hear!), and the same is true with the flu:
Truth: Vaccinating can prevent and reduce illness and prevent time lost from work.
Myth: I should wait to get vaccinated until I have symptoms of the flu.
Truth: Flu viruses used in flu shots are inactivated, so they cannot cause infection.
Myth: The flu shot can give me the flu.
Truth: People should get a flu vaccine as soon as they’re available because it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop.
Call your healthcare provider today to schedule your flu shot if you’ve not already had one. If you do not have a primary care physician you can also receive a vaccination at your local health
department, or at most retail pharmacies.