Colds and Flu
First of all the common cold and the flu are caused by two different viral infections. The common cold is often caused by various strains of the Rhinovirus or Adenovirus whereas the flu is caused by strains of the Influenza virus. All these viruses infect epithelial cells of the upper respiratory tract and therefore initial symptoms will be indistinguishable. As the innate part (non-specific, first line of defence) of the immune system kicks in, you will often begin with symptoms such as a sore throat and runny nose.
To treat these specific symptoms:
1. The pain of a sore throat is actually caused by bacteria attacking the compromised epithelial lining of your throat. If you find the pain is unbearable, even after using paracetamol, gargling Corsodyl Mouthwash with 0.2% w/v Chlorhexidine Digluconate for 30 seconds will kill the bacteria causing the problem and the sore throat will very quickly clear up.
2. The runny nose is caused by the body producing non-specific IgA antibodies that aim to attack the invading pathogen. However, these are usually ineffective against the virus. I would not advise treating a runny nose from a cold, however you can use a nasal rinse to re-establish the osmotic balance in the nose. This treatment is much more effective and appropriate for treating pollen allergies.
Beyond these symptoms the two infections will begin to differ. Whilst the common should clear up within a week with the possibility of developing a cough, the flu will present itself with severe fatigue, high fever, aching joints and last a good 2 weeks. To treat these more severe symptoms:
1. A high temperature, typically anything above 38.5˚C, can and should be treated with Paracetamol. Follow the dose instructions carefully. Typically no more that 1000mg every 4 hours. Be wary that medicine such as Lemsip already contains paracetamol.
2. Aching joints can be treated with NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen. These are perfectly safe to take alongside paracetamol. Follow the dose instructions carefully. Typically no more than 200mg every 4 hours.
3. Fatigue is difficult to treat but ensuring you eat regularly with a particular emphasis on protein intake (immune system will be burning through this stuff to produce antibodies) and vitamin C.
It is important to note if you have any other symptoms beyond these or you have another underlying condition that makes your more susceptible that you seek medical advice of your GP.