Have you really got Flu? Or is it just a cold? How to tell the difference

Got the snuffles ? Yes its that time of year again!

Today’s blog has been inspired by my partner who has been struck down with a case of the dreaded man flu.

As a GP this is the time of year that we start to see an influx of runny noses and sore throats but often people just aren’t sure if they should be seeing their doctor or if they should be managing their ailments at home.

The problem is, many of us don’t know the difference between the common cold and flu.
Both the cold and the flu are caused viruses but they are very different illnesses.

I often describe the flu as being hit by a bus. it hits you suddenly and knocks you flat.You may have a high fever, muscle aches and pains, a runny nose, sore throat and/or a dry cough and you normally feel much more unwell than you would with a common cold. The flu forces you to go to bed but the common cold usually allows you to get on with your day.
The common cold is less severe and usually comes on gradually. You may have a runny nose, feel congested, have a sore throat or dry cough and a low grade fever.
Sadly, there is no cure for the common cold or the Flu. Most common colds and flu can be settled with rest , drinking plenty of non alcoholic fluids , and taking over the counter medications

Those with the flu will probably feel unable to work and need to rest in bed . Symptoms  are normally settled after a week but if you are getting worse or no better see your doctor.

Antibiotics – to be or not to be ?

People often think that if they’ve got a cold or the flu, a course of antibiotics will sort them out, and so many will ask their GP for an antibiotic prescription or take antibiotic tablets they may still have in their cupboard from a previous health complaint.
This is potentially very dangerous, as taking antibiotics when you don’t need them leads to an increase in the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. This could later land you in trouble if you get a genuine bacterial infection, which will then be much more difficult to treat. Antibiotics also kill our natural gut bacteria that keep us healthy, which can lead to C. diff diarrhoea, making susceptible persons very ill.
Because of unnecessary antibiotic use, some serious infections are now almost untreatable. Antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections, for example, pneumonia and urine and skin infections. They are useless against simple coughs, colds and flu, which are all caused by viruses, so winter ailments like these have to be managed in a different way.

Stock up for the winter

So now that we know that there’s no such thing as a cure for a cold – that doesn’t mean you need to let catching one ruin your week. Ensuring that you have some painkillers and a good decongestant, such as Sudafed, in your medicine cabinet means that you will, at least, be able to ward off the worst symptoms. It’s worth keeping some lozenges, too, for a sore throat and some pholcodine (check with your pharmacist thats its safe for you) for a dry cough.

When feeling under the weather, vitamin C supplements and echinacea can come in handy, too. If you get the first warning signs of a cold, start dosing with these immune system boosters.

And if others around you start falling ill, keep your distance: Make sure to get plenty of rest, plenty of fruit and vegetables and stay as active as possible.

And finally, prevention is better than cure. You may be eligible to have the seasonal flu vaccination.
The flu vaccine contains inactivated strains of the flu virus and can help to prepare the immune system to fight the flu virus
No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. People eligible to receive a free flu jab include
• those 65 years of age or over

• pregnant women

•people with certain medical conditions (e.g. respiratory disease, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes)

•infants and children with certain medical conditions

Most gp surgeries run flu clinics from October to November each year . If you are not sure if you need to have one speak to your gp practice nurse or pharmacist