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How many of us have had “the cold” this year? You know, the one that’s going around that’s lasting 3 weeks (or longer). Well, there’s me. Right now. A gift from my dear wife, and I in turn to one of our daughters, and maybe others. I thought it was the flu, actually. So sick there for a few days. Went to my doctor, and no… ‘just a cold’. Yeah, ‘just’. Thanks. Chest X-ray and a 5-day antibiotic… and yes, I am getting better (it is Day 18 as I write this… I think I have a few days left before I am 80% again).

I visited the Mayo Clinic website in preparation for writing this post, to see where colds and influenza differ. I thought I’d share a few quotes from what I found there:

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. And although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu.

People with the virus are likely contagious from the day or so before symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin, though sometimes people are contagious for as long as 10 days after symptoms appear. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a slightly longer time.

If you do come down with the flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
  • Rest. Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.
  • Consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), to combat the achiness associated with influenza. Don't give aspirin to children or teens because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition.

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It's usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold.

Children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, but healthy adults can also expect to have two or three colds annually.

Most people recover from a common cold in a week or 10 days. Symptoms might last longer in people who smoke. If symptoms don't improve, see your doctor.

Although many types of viruses can cause a common cold, rhinoviruses are the most common culprit.

A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. It also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as utensils, towels, toys or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, you're likely to catch a cold.

There's no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are of no use against cold viruses and shouldn't be used unless there's a bacterial infection. Treatment is directed at relieving signs and symptoms.

So, I guess it’s no surprise that there is a lot of confusion about whether one has a cold or the flu, as for most folks they act a lot alike. There are differences, with the flu making one sicker and definitely can lead to potentially deadly complications like pneumonia, but generally they are pretty similar, as is how to deal with them. Nothing is going to make either go away (sorry, Buckley’s, you’re no cure) but may help a little with symptomatic relief. Having said that, take care: some of these over-the-counter remedies pack a bit of a punch, and can do damage besides.

So, when all gets said and done, Grandma’s advice to ‘rest in bed, drink plenty of fluids (yeah… H2Only’s pure, clean water! Got it in there!), and take Aspirin /Advil/Tylenol’ is probably still the best. I still think a good Yiddish chicken soup works, but I would. I love chicken soup. Jamie Oliver calls this recipe ‘Jewish Penicillin’.

Maybe a rum toddy or two? Here’s my fav recipe (and whiskey works just as well!):

  • brew strong tea in your biggest mug
  • pour in a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • stir in a lot of honey (at least a tablespoon… more is better)
  • add a BIG shot of rum or whiskey (2oz min.)
  • Drink as hot as you can and get ready to sweat, big-time

When all gets said and done, we all get colds and flu, and dealing with them can be difficult. Remember to hydrate, rest, and try hard not to share your ‘gift’ with friends and neighbours.

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Colophon ~||~