Scientists have been looking for a cure for the common cold for around 500 years. But in America in 1919, it was a matter of great urgency. It was a criminal offence to sneeze in public, and people with influenza ('flu), colds and hayfever could be locked up if they offended. The law was actually passed to protect the public from the global 'flu pandemic of the day, which eventually killed around 20 million people worldwide.
Fortunately, laws like this are not enforced today! For the majority of people, a cold or the 'flu means a headache, fever and a few days in bed, although for the infirm, elderly or very young it can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia. Viruses cause colds and 'flu. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold or 'flu, we rely entirely upon our body's defence mechanism to fight the virus.
You may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Blocked nose.
- Aches and pains.
- Sore throat.
- High temperature.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Blocked sinuses.
- Sore nose.
You can identify which you are suffering from by your symptoms. Symptoms of 'flu are more severe and appear more quickly than those of the common cold. With a cold you may lose a little of your appetite, you may have headaches and you can feel slightly tired. With 'flu you will have very little appetite, you can have severe headaches, aching limbs, and feel exhausted.
If you do have cold or flu symptoms:
- Drink non-alcoholic fluids, such as water or fruit juice, to avoid dehydration from fever-induced sweating.
- Do not undertake any vigorous exercise.
- Get plenty of rest or sleep in a warm but well aired room, remembering to tell people you are unwell so that they can check up on you if necessary.
- Maintain a healthy and nutritious food intake to help keep your strength up; vitamin C and zinc lozenges may help.
In addition, it can be beneficial to take a fever reducing pain killer containing Paracetamol, which is gentle on the stomach and lowers fever, whilst easing the aches and pains that colds and 'flu can so often bring.
If symptoms persist or if dark or bad-smelling phlegm is being produced, you should contact your GP for advice.
If you believe you are in one of the 'at risk' categories listed below you should consider asking your GP for a flu vaccination:
- You suffer from lung conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer or other diseases which impair the immune system.
- You are a resident in a nursing home or other long-stay accommodation.
Absolute protection against flu cannot be expected, but the vaccine reduces the severity of the attack and substantially reduces the risk of a serious attack.
Always read the leaflet enclosed in the pack before use.