Unless you’ve got a super-effective immune system, it’s pretty likely you’ll get at least one cold or flu episode every year. Colds and flu are caused by viral infections. These viruses are constantly mutating - this year’s cold or flu virus will probably be different from last year’s. That’s why you can keep on catching colds and the flu time and time again. It’s also why it has been so difficult to develop a cure, although you can get flu vaccines.
A lot of people think that antibiotics will kill viruses. But this isn’t true. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics when you’ve got a cold or the flu, it’s to treat more serious bacterial infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, infected sinuses or middle ear problems. Treatments can help to relieve symptoms of colds and flu but, when it comes down to it, your best defence is your own immune system.
Signs of colds and flu
Common colds and flu can have the same symptoms -although flu symptoms are usually a bit worse. Both take around 1-3 days to appear after you’re infected. They include:
- A dry or sore throat - this is often the first sign, coming a day or so before other symptoms
- Runny nose - usually clear and watery at first, then the mucus thickens
- Blocked nose - babies might have trouble feeding
- Headache - all over your head or around your eyes
- Sneezing - this is your body’s attempt to clear your nasal passages
- cough - can be dry or phlegmy rough voice- the virus usually causes your vocal chords to swell