Cold and Flu
The common cold may cause congestion, sore throat and sneezing. Both the common cold and the flu can cause cough, headache and chest discomfort. Complications of the common cold are usually minor and include bronchitis, sinus pressure and sinus infection.
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It’s more likely to cause high fever, body aches, fatigue and weakness compared to a common cold. Complications include bronchitis and pneumonia. The flu is spread by inhaling droplets in the air that contain the flu virus, sharing drinks or eating utensils or handling items touched by a person infected with the flu. Handwashing is an important prevention method for both the common cold and the flu. Symptoms begin one to four days after infection with the flu virus. Those most susceptible include pregnant women, infants, elderly and those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and HIV. The Centers for Disease Control recommends annual flu shots.
Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, a virus or by inhaling a liquid. Symptoms may include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. Pneumonia can be a serious condition, especially in young children, older adults and people with other health issues. Vaccines are available to help prevent some types of pneumonia.
A fever is a symptom, not a disease on its own. It’s the body’s reaction to infection and illness and helps the body fight against the invading organism. Most healthy children and adults can tolerate a fever of 103-104°F for short periods without problems. Viral infections (cold/flu) and bacterial infections (urinary tract infections/pneumonia) often cause a fever. A fever that begins after travel in other countries needs to be evaluated by a doctor as this allows exposure to other diseases. Frequent or recurring fevers should also be evaluated by a doctor.