It’s coming in to winter here in Ireland, and everyone is getting sick! Coughs and sneezes and gross germs everywhere, and here I am writing a post about all you HYPOCHONDRIACS out there who say you have ‘the flu’ the second you have lil sniffle. If you had the flu you’d be too sick to even say “I think I have the flu.” So strap on in and let’s Get Learned about the difference between a cold and a flu.
Lemme tell you a story about a flu that went around in 1918, called the Spanish flu. It was estimated that worldwide, 500 million people were infected, and between 3 and 5% of the worlds population DIED. It was a pretty devastating pandemic, and is an example of how awful influenza outbreaks can be.
Influenza is caused by a virus called the influenza virus (doy – virus names are a lot simpler than bacteria names.) You might have heard of them with some numbers and letters at the start, like H1N1 or H5N2 or something. These refer to two proteins that chill on the outside of the virus called hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Big words, tiny proteins, all you need to know is that they are identifying features of the virus, like eye colour or hair colour on people. H1N1 influenza virus = blue eyes blond hair Hannah from next door.
Symptoms of influenza virus infection include body aches, headache, fever, runny nose, coughing and tiredness. They can vary in severity from mild to severe, severe being like, ur dead. Mild being illness for anywhere from a week to two weeks, and generally bed ridden for that whole time.
If you have a flu, you’ll KNOW you have a flu. It’ll be like a combination of having a cold, being hit by a bus and being really really really hungover. Not fun.
The common cold is caused by a bunch of different viruses, called rhinoviruses. I can guarantee if you’re old enough to read this post you will have had at least 10 cases of rhinovirus before, I have about three a year. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, fever, headache, and a sore throat. We ALL know how this feels, you just wanna be in bed for three or so days, you feel a bit shitty but generally you have to get on with life, right? Maybe you take a couple days off work, order takeaway instead of cooking, get Mum to make you a lemon and honey. Lovely.
People often confuse a cold with the flu because the symptoms can be similar, as we have noted. But they are NOT the same. A flu can be life threatening. A cold is generally non-lethal in most people, exceptions being the very elderly and the immunosuppressed.
Sadly, there’s not a lot we can do for either of these illnesses. Some of the more dangerous cases of flu can be treated with anti-virals, but that’s like brink of death type stuff.
The advice your doctor will give you if you have a cold or the flu (rarer) will be as follows. “Rest up, don’t go to work or school. Keep your fluids up, eat if you can and take paracetamol or cold and flu relief that you can buy over the counter at the pharmacy. If you’re still sick in a week or so, get in contact.”
Omg I just saved you 40 bucks! You’re welcome.
So next time you feel a bit shitty and ring in to work to say “I can’t come in, I have the flu,” think again buster. You’ve probably got a cold and a serious case of hypochondria. Get Learned!