Preventing Severe Complications from Colds and Flus | Flu Vaccination Clinic | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Preventing Severe Complications from Colds and Flus

The following information is from Healthnet Federal Services. Visit their website for more information on preventing and treating the flu.

Whether cold or flu, the symptoms are similar: both are caused by viruses and must run their course. Because they are viral diseases, they do not respond to antibiotics. Although both cold and flu symptoms affect the respiratory tract, the symptoms of the flu are more pronounced and its complications more severe. If you are in good health, the flu will probably pass with no complications after a week or so of bedrest and home care for cold symptoms.

  • Fluids are especially important to help avoid dehydration from fever and to help loosen respiratory tract secretions.
  • You need to give yourself time to fully recuperate from the flu and prevent the development of secondary infections that can cause bronchitis, sinusitis, or pneumonia.

Colds and flu occur most commonly in school-aged children, but its most severe effects are felt by infants, the elderly, and people with chronic ailments.

Symptoms Cold Flu Pneumonia
Fever Rare or Low Characteristics: high (100.4-104°F), sudden onset, lasts 3-4 days May or may not be high
Headache Occasional Prominent Occasional
General aches and pains Slight Usual, often quite severe Occasional
Diarrhea No Sometimes Rare
Fatigue and weakness Quite mild Extreme, can last up to a month May occur depending on type
Exhaustion No May occur early and prominent May occur depending on type
Runny, stuffy nose Common May occur Not characteristic
Sneezing Usual May occur Not characteristic
Sore throat Common May occur Not characteristic
Chest discomfort, cough Mild to moderate Can become severe Frequent and may be severe hacking cough
Complications Sinus and ear infections Bronchitis, pneumonia, and can be life threatening Widespread infections of other organs can be life-threatening, especially in elderly and debilitated patients