The common cold is an unfortunate fact of life that affects every single person on the planet. The frigid, dry air of winter also allows the cold virus to spread more easily, which can make catching a cold even more miserable. While there is no cure for the common cold and it usually relatively benign, it can occasionally turn more serious. Here is what you should know.
There isn't a vaccine for preventing a cold, which is called by several different viruses, but there is a vaccination for the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus. If you get the flu, it can weaken your immune system, which can make you more susceptible to catching a cold. Making sure you eat properly, reduce stress, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest can also help reduce the likelihood of catching a cold or developing complications.
What Is The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu?
It can be difficult to know which virus you have come down with when you get sick. A cold is generally milder than the flu, but complications can occur. Typically, a cold:
- Does not cause a fever
- Has hallmark symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, watery itchy eyes, and a sore throat
- Doesn't produce body aches or vomiting
When one gets the flu, the symptoms are more severe:
- A fever is common
- There are few nasal symptoms
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and body aches are common
- Complications can arise, especially in those with impaired immune systems
Both colds and the flu can result in respiratory issues, such as viral or bacterial pneumonia. In addition to those with impaired immune system, people who smoke or have weakened lungs are more susceptible.
When Should You See The Doctor?
A cold is caused by any number of viruses, but in some people, they can turn into bronchitis, a sinus infection, or pneumonia. Bronchitis is usually viral and is basically a severe cold that is centered in the chest. It will usually clear on its own, but some people may need breathing support or medications to help clear their lungs of mucous. Occasionally, bronchitis may be bacterial which may require antibiotics.
A cold virus can turn into a bacterial sinus infection, especially in people who have chronically inflamed sinuses. If the nasal mucous is thick and greenish in color and you have a cold that just seems like it is never going to go away, there is a good chance you have developed a sinus infection and should be seen.
In older people, infants, smokers, and those with impaired immune systems, a cold can quickly turn into pneumonia, which can be potentially life-threatening. A high fever, chills, and difficulty breathing may be indicative of pneumonia.
If you haven't yet gotten your flu vaccine or you feel your symptoms are more severe or are hanging around longer than usual, it's important to immediately visit your premier urgent care office.