Dear Reader,

Welcome to this Special Report on Colds and Flu. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning the incidence of colds and flu in the United States are staggering. Particularly when you take into account the overwhelming incidence of a six to seven month period each year.

According to some estimates, in the course of a year, people in the United States suffer one billion colds. Children have six to 10 colds a year. In families with children in school the number of colds can be as high as 12 a year. Adults average about two to four colds a year, although the range varies widely. Women, especially those aged 20 to 30 years, have more colds than men, possibly because of their closer contact with children. On average, people older than 60 have less than one cold a year.

Every year in the United States, on average: five--20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 people die from flu. Some people, such as young children, and those with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold? In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches; extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

Symptoms of Colds
Symptoms of the common cold usually begin two to three days after infections and often include: mucus buildup in your nose, difficulty breathing through your nose, swelling of your sinuses, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and headache.

Fever is usually slight but can climb to 102 degrees Fahrenheit in infants and young children. Cold symptoms can last from two to 14 days, but like most people, you'll probably recover in a week. If symptoms occur often or last much longer than two weeks, you might have an allergy rather than a cold.

Complications of Colds: Colds occasionally can lead to bacterial infections of your middle ear or sinuses, requiring treatment with antibiotics. High fever, significantly swollen glands, severe sinus pain, and a cough that produces mucus, may indicate a complications or more serious illness requiring a visit to your health care provider.

Transmission: Cold viruses can infect you by either of these methods: Touching your skin or environmental surfaces, such as telephones and stair rails, that have cold germs on them and then touching your eyes or nose, also by inhaling drops of mucus full of cold germs from the air.

Symptoms of flu include: fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

How Flu Spreads
Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing and people with influenza. Touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose may infect people sometimes. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Good Health Habits for Preventing Colds and Flu
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.



Illustration by Jeff Ham

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