Cold and Flu Season
If you get a cold, rest — give your immune system time to fight the cold and relieve the symptoms. Don’t go to public places, make your cold worse and spread it to others. See your doctor or pharmacist if your symptoms come on suddenly, are severe or last longer than usual. Normally a common cold will last 7-10 days.
Good hygiene practices will help reduce your risk of catching a cold and spreading it to someone else.
Common colds are infections of the respiratory tract. Symptoms can include sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat and coughing. Green or yellow mucus may come from the nose. This is normally a sign that the immune system is fighting the infection and does not mean the cold is getting worse. Fever is generally mild when it does occur.
Colds are common especially in children.
- Children can get 5–10 colds per year; adults can get 2–4 colds per year.
- Children get more colds than adults because they do not have the same immunity to many cold viruses as adults do.
- More than 200 different viruses can cause common colds.
A cough is often the last thing to improve and can last up to 3 weeks.
See your Doctor if you or your child have a history of asthma and have a cough or if you feel particularly debilitated by a cold, have a fever not responding to Paracetamol, have symptoms of eye infection, gastroenteritis or urinary tract infection or other worrisome signs.
Influenza (or flu) is a serious illness. A ‘common cold’ is often called the ‘flu’, but they are different. Flu symptoms usually start suddenly with a high fever and you may feel sick enough to go to bed.
Symptoms can also include irritation in the throat or lungs, a dry cough, shivering, sweating and severe muscle aches. The flu tends to make the whole body ache, whereas the common cold usually affects the nose and throat only.
Common colds, flu and most coughs are caused by viruses and get better on their own. Antibiotics work only on infections caused by bacteria and have no effect on viruses, so they won’t help a cold get better faster or stop it from getting worse, and they won’t stop a cold from spreading to others. Your immune system can fight and overcome these viruses.
Using antibiotics when they are not needed may make them less effective when they are needed. Your Doctor will decide if your symptoms are from a virus or bacteria and will prescribe antibiotics only if the benefits outweigh the risk of unwanted side effects like stomach upsets, diarrhoea, thrush and allergic reactions.
Some ear and throat infections may be caused by either viruses or bacteria, but most will get better on their own. Discuss managing pain relief with your pharmacist or doctor.
Research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are much more likely to develop complications (e.g. pneumonia and ear damage) from respiratory tract infections. These may involve bacterial infections so antibiotics may be needed more often.