A huge number of people are affected by the cold and flu virus every year but what is the difference between the two, what are the causes cold and flu, and what can we do to protect our families from illness this winter?
A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose and throat. It's very common and usually clears up on its own within a week or two. The main symptoms of a cold include[i]:
- Sore throat[ii]
- Blocked or runny nose[v]
The flu is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Flu symptoms appear suddenly and although similar to a common cold are usually more severe. Flu can also result in more serious health problems such as pneumonia so it is important to rest well if you become ill. Flu symptoms can include any of the following[vi]:
- Sudden fever[vii]
- Muscle aches and pains[viii]
- Sore throat[xi]
- Chesty cough[xii]
It is a common misconception that cold and flu are caused by the cold temperature. While the number of people struck down by these viruses does appear to increase during the cooler months, the only thing that causes a cold or flu, is if you contract a cold or flu virus.[xiv] There are many different strains to these viruses all of which are highly contagious so it’s important we understand how to protect our families from illness.
Some of the most common ways we contract cold and flu include:
- Touching a surface contaminated with the cold or flu virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes[xv]
- Inhaling the virus when an infected person sneezes or coughs[xvi]
Tips for cold and flu prevention
Plenty of rest and staying hydrated[xvii] is the only way to beat a cold or the flu but there are steps we can take to protect our families from becoming ill. Below are some tips to help prevent the spread of the cold and flu virus:
- Keep your house clean. We can catch viruses by touching objects infected with bad germs and then touching our mouth, nose or eyes. Stop these germs spreading in your home by ensuring surfaces and door handles are cleaned and disinfected regularly using Dettol Antiseptic Liquid. At work, it’s easy keep your keyboard, phone and other germ hotspots clean by using anti-bacterial wipes.[xviii]
- Be careful when you cough and sneeze. Preferably carry a tissue with you to cover your mouth if you need to sneeze or cough. This will prevent the cold and flu viruses entering the air and infecting others. Any used tissues should go in the bin as soon as possible, then wash your hands using a hand wash such as Dettol Original Liquid Hand Wash.[xix]
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Cold and flu viruses can enter your body through the mouth, nose and eyes, so if you can avoid touching these areas the chance of passing on the virus to your system will be reduced.
- Use your own cup, plates, cutlery, toothbrush and towel. By doing so you will limit the spread of germs between individuals. It can take few days for flu symptoms to develop so it’s always best to be cautious about sharing personal items, even if the other person appears to be well. [xx]
- Keep your clothes clean. Your clothes can harbour illness causing germs too, so if you or a family member has been unwell with cold or flu, try adding Dettol Antiseptic Liquid to your laundry to make sure any germs are killed.[xxi]
- Look after yourself. Keep your immune system happy and healthy by eating a balanced diet and making sure you and your family are getting enough sleep. Also try to avoid close contact with those suffering with cold or flu.[xxii]
- Good hand hygiene. One of the most common ways we become ill is by passing germs around on our hands, so practicing good hygiene can really help cold and flu prevention. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with warm water and hand wash such as Dettol Original Liquid Hand Wash is one of the easiest ways to stop the spread of cold and flu viruses. If you are out and don’t have access to a tap try using Dettol Liquid Hand Sanitiser to stay protected from bad germs.[xxiii]
- Teach your children the benefits of good hygiene. Cold and flu viruses are highly contagious, particularly amongst children when they are in close contact at school. It is important to remind your children of the importance of good hand washing practice and encourage them to wash their hands regularly with soap and water. Follow our step-by-step handwashing guide here.
Cold and flu viruses are very contagious so being aware cold and flu symptoms, and taking a few extra precautions, could help to protect you and your family. Make sure you rest well and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water to prevent the spread of illness causing germs.