Is It a Cold or the Flu?
by Leonard C. Giunta, D.O.
The speed of a sneeze has been clocked at 100 mph. So how do you protect yourself when you're surrounded by a multitude of others who are sneezing and coughing? A place to start may be to bolster and maintain your immune system before exposure. However, if you get a cold or the flu despite all your best preventative efforts, there are natural alternatives.
When we are feeling sick, we tend to focus on getting better as quickly as possible. However, defining whether you have a cold or the flu can matter.
What is a Cold?
A cold can be either a viral or a bacterial infection. You can't catch a cold by just feeling chilled or by going outside without a hat. Viruses must invade living cells in order to multiply, although they can live on surfaces, like a door handle, for up to three days. So your mother was right when she told you to wash your hands before touching your face. There are over 100 different cold viruses, but the rhinovirus which lives in the nose, is responsible for more than half of all colds. The entire upper respiratory tract, including the sinuses, bronchial tubes, and ears, can be involved. The symptoms of a cold-runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing-arrive gradually and can last as little as a few days or as long as a week. Watch out for a secondary bacterial infection in the ears or sinuses.
What is the Flu?
Many who become sick with the flu liken it to being hit by a truck. The flu feels a lot like a bad cold, but the symptoms start more suddenly, are more severe, and can be of particular concern for the elderly, those with chronic diseases, and anyone with a compromised immune system. Symptoms of a stuffy nose, sore throat, and coughing are often accompanied by chills or aching muscles and a fever of up to 104 degrees, which may last a couple of days. ÒThe lethargy, aches, and fever are side effects of the body doing its job of trying to fight off the infection, according to Dominick Iacuzio, Ph.D., influenza program officer with the National Institutes of Health.
The after-effects of the flu-tiredness and muscle soreness-can last for days or weeks. Be aware that if the flu is misdiagnosed as a bad cold, then dangerous complications, like pneumonia, may be overlooked. The flu doesn't usually cause stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea-that is a different problem called gastroenteritis, and not the stomach flu as some tend to refer to it.
Keys to staying healthy include supporting the immune system, as well as knowing how well your immune system responds to invading viruses, bacteria, or other harmful pathogens. Comprised of white blood cells, the immune system is an intricate mechanism responsible for defending the body against invasion of unhealthy substances. When healthy and active, the immune system is like an army that is able to identify the enemy and kill them directly or indirectly. The most direct attackers of our immune system are the phagocytes. Phagocytes act in the initial stages of infection and secrete enzymes to destroy invaders. They have been compared to "pac-men," because of the way they engulf and ÒeatÓ the offending organisms. B-cells act indirectly by making antibodies that seek out specific pathogens, at which time the antibodies engulf and destroy. Antibodies are very specific to a particular pathogen, and circulate in the body for long periods of time to effectively ward off illness. Optimal numbers and activity of white blood cells are required to successly fight bacteria and viral infection.
SeaVive®, from Proper Nutrition, is an excellent way to support the immune system. It contains pre-digested protein in the form of simple amino acids and bioactive peptides as well as immune stimulators and activators, like colostrum, beta glucans, and vitamin C. SeaVive has been shown to increase the number of circulating white blood cells (which protect the body from infection). It also stimulates phagocytes (the cells that remove unwanted substances) and elevates antibody levels to fight off infection.
Regardless of whether your system is fighting off a cold or the flu, being the person doing all the sneezing is no fun. With proper attention and supplementation, plus plenty of rest, you can keep your recovery time to a minimum and the facial tissues on the shelf.