By Devin Almonte
Please tell me flu season is over! This has been one of the worst flu seasons on record. Are we out of the woods yet? Not quite. While influenza-like-illness levels have fallen in the latest FluView report, overall influenza activity remains high across much of the United States.
So if you still aren't sure what to look for, read on to find out how to distinguish between the common cold and the flu, especially if you haven't had the flu yet. And hopefully, you'll make it through unscathed.
Despite having similar symptoms, these winter respiratory diseases can have VERY different results.
Cold and Flu and some of the most commonly misused words in medical science. Blocked sinuses and a stuffed nose are almost always dismissed as “just a cold”, and we carry on our everyday lives, hoping that the symptoms will run their course and promptly leave.
However, it is time to think about this course of action in a bit more detail. Around 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for Influenza each year; around 36,000 of whom die due to the virus.
As the symptoms of the common cold and the potentially-deadly flu virus appear to be very similar, this report will aim to educate you on how to tell the difference and keep yourself safe.
The Common Cold. What is it?
The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection. The infection is caused by a variety of viruses, but the infection is almost always mild in nature. The common cold is transmitted from person to person by droplets produced during cough and sneezes, or through direct contact with a contaminated surface. Contrary to what many have come to believe, being in the cold weather does not actually cause the common cold.
More than 200 different varieties of virus are known to cause the common cold; the most common of these being rhinovirus (this causes around 30-40% of colds in adults).
Due to the fact that numerous different viruses cause the common cold, and because these viruses are constantly mutating to develop new strains, the body is not able to build immune defenses directed towards the illness. This is why you have many colds throughout your life time: you simply don’t develop immunity.
Young children experience on average 6 to 12 colds per year. While the cold has no direct relation to causing the common cold, it does occur more frequently during the colder months.
WHO IS AT RISK
There are variety of risk factors that come into play when it comes to determining how likely an individual is to acquire the common cold.
Infants and young children have not yet developed immunity to many common viruses, and therefore are at increased risk of developing the common cold. Adults will have developed limited immunity to some strains of the common cold so become ill less often. The elderly population also has an increased risk of developing the common cold as their immune system deteriorates with age.
The common cold is acquired more in a much larger proportion of the population during fall, winter, or during the rainy season. As the illness is not directly related to the weather, it is thought that in increased prevalence at these times is most likely due to people spending more time indoors and in closer proximity to each other.
Weakened Immune System:
Those who have poorly functioning, weaken immune systems have an increased likelihood of developing the common cold. This includes individuals with excessive fatigue, emotional distress and disorders of the immune system.
It is likely that a cold will develop gradually over a series of two or three days. Individuals are most contagious during the early stages. This is the duration in which symptoms are likely to include a runny nose and sore throat.
Symptoms of the common cold include:
Nasal symptoms are experienced more frequently during infection with the common cold than with influenza. The nose will normally produce a watery secretion for the first few days, that will later thicken and become darker in color.
Infants and young children may also become fussy and have decreased appetite.
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
The duration of colds can vary, but colds to tend to last for longer than flu. Individuals who are still ill after a duration of two weeks or longer most likely have a cold; although a cold could also last as little as two days.
How Serious is the Common Cold? How Should I Treat it?
Generally, a cold is nothing to be worried about. In vulnerable populations, such as infants and the elderly, a suspected cold should be monitored more closely in case of symptom development and further complication.
The common cold should be treated at home, and the is normally no reason to contact a doctor. Keeping warm, getting rest and sleep and drinking plenty of water with aid in a speedier recovery. Pharmacists can help you, selling cough and cold medicines over the counter. A pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best medicine for you needs.
Nasal sprays are available to relieve congestion and aches, pains and temperature can be lowered with pain killers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some medications are not suitable for children, babies or pregnant women, so make sure to specify who the medicine is for if you are buying in for someone else.
Supplements such as vitamin c, zinc, Echinacea and garlic also lay claims to help in your recovery, but there is little evidence to support their supposed effects.
The Flu: What is it?
Influenza, commonly known as ‘The Flu’, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. These infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu viruses are believed to be spread via airborne droplets produced when infected individuals cough, sneeze or talk. The virus may also be transmitted through touching a surface that is contaminated with the virus, then touching one’s own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes. Influenza is a more serious illness than the common cold, and there is a potential that medical attention may be needed. Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infection, sinus infection, and the worsening or chronic conditions such as heart failure, asthmas or diabetes.
Influenza viruses can be unpredictable but are likely to be moderately severe even if the infected individual is healthy to begin with. However, for those who are unhealthy to begin with, the infection has the potential to be fatal.
The virology of Influenza is an interesting topic. The Influenza viruses are a group of RNA viruses that have a very high rate of mutation. The mutation rate of the virus is caused by rapid change in viral genetics produced by antigenic drifts. ‘Antigenic drift’ is a sudden large change in the virus genetics which allows the virus to infect a new host species quickly and overcome protective immunity any individual host might have developed to the virus previously.
This is big reason behind the semi-frequent emergence of flu pandemics. These strains are often of animal origin, such as bird flu or swine flu.
WHO IS AT RISK
The risk factors that predispose individuals to an infection of the Flu Virus are the same as those that increase the risk of contracting the Common Cold (age, seasonal variation, weakened immune system).
The major difference here is that for those individuals who fall into the ‘high-risk’ group, influenza can become severe and even fatal. This group includes those who suffer from:
Individuals who are:
Those who fall into any of these categories are offered the Flu Vaccine on an annual basis; more on this later.
Flu symptoms use usually more severe than cold symptom and are likely to come on much more rapidly - within the duration of a day, or even a few hours. Symptoms will begin approximately 2 to 3 days after the infection originally occurred.
Influenza symptoms are very similar to that of the Common Cold, though some of the symptom typically present themselves to a greater or lesser extent. Symptoms that are more likely to be worse in the case of a Flu infection are:
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
Cases of Influenza tend to be more predictable in their length than cases of the Common Cold. The Flu will normally last for the duration of about a week, though you are likely to feel tired or ‘out of sorts’ for much longer.
How Serious is the Flu? How Should I Treat It?
As you have gathered by this point in the report, the Flu is a much more serious viral infection than the Common Cold.
In general, the Flu can still be treated at home without medical attention. People with the flu are advised to take plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Alcohol and Tobacco use should also be avoided (as always). If necessary, pain killers can be taken to relieve the headaches and muscle pains associated with the flu.
Antiviral medication may be effective if they are given early enough - but some strains of influenza are beginning to show resistance to several of the standard antiviral drugs, another issue presented by the virus’ mutation rate.
Once again, suggested supplements and holistic/ herbal therapies that are often advertised for Cold and Flu have little evidence behind then to suggest they are effective in
treatment of these infections.
When Should I Call a Doctor for Cold and Flu Symptoms?
In most cases or cold AND Flu, there will be no need to contact medical professionals. Treatment can be performed at home as is previously described.
The fact that cold and flu are both viral infections should be kept in mind. Doctors cannot prescribe medication to treat either effectively, and antibiotics will have no effect. If symptoms appear to be unusually serve or the effected individual falls into a high-risk group, a GP should be contacted. Look out for these symptoms in particular:
If your fever lasts for more than three days, it is possible you also have another bacterial infection, secondary to the cold or flu virus, that needs to be treated.
Sore throats can cause mild discomfort in a normal case of cold of flu, but severe pain could be indicative of ‘Strep Throat’, an infection that will require treatment by a doctor.
A cough that does not subside, at least slightly, after three to four days could in fact be bronchitis. Antibiotics will be needed to treat this inflammatory condition.
Persistent congestion and headaches
Congestion and blockages of the sinus passages can cause sinus infection (sinusitis). If pain around the eyes and face is felt persistently, with accompanying thick nasal discharge, a bacterial infection might be present. There is a possibility that antibiotics will be required to treat this, but this is unlikely.
Emergency medical attention should be sought immediately in some cases, signs of crisis include:
Additional signs of emergency exhibited by children are:
How Do I Prevent Cold and Flu?
PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES
Measures that can be put in place to avoid both cold and flu are very similar. The best preventative actions include: hand-washing, not sharing communal kitchen wares (like cups and cutlery), and avoiding direct contact with individuals who appear ill.
The viruses are both transferred between hosts via airborne droplets or other respiratory secretion, therefore it is important that mouths should be covered, and tissues used when coughing or sneezing in public. Tissues should then be properly disposed of and hands thoroughly washed to prevent infection spread.
Possibly contaminated surfaces (e.g. tables in restaurants, door handles in the office) should be cleaned routinely with virus-killing disinfectant.
Individuals have the potential to transmit the infection for as long as they have a fever. 24 hours after a fever has fully subsided is when an individual no longer presents as infectious. If suspected to be sick, individuals should take it upon themselves to abstain from being in crowded public spaces.
Social distancing is a more extreme strategy used during pandemics. This involves closure of schools, churches and theatres, workplaces, and many other public facilities. The spread of the virus is slowed considerable through taking this action due to minimized social gatherings. In past cases, social distancing has had no measurable impact of the reduction of the overall death rate from flu, however.
Ensuring maintenance of a healthy immune system is also important in avoidance of cold and flu. This involved general maintenance of health and well-being through diet and exercise. Stress can also impact on immune system health.
THE FLU VACCINE
Vaccination against the Influenza Virus is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Stated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). The CDC recommends that ‘everyone’ be vaccinated. Vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, and people aged 50 and over should take priority when it comes to vaccination programs.
Unless there is a contraindication present, there is no reason to not get the Flu vaccine. Unfortunately, one common contraindication is egg allergy, as the vaccine is synthesized from chickens' eggs. Other contraindications would be having received a different vaccine within the two weeks previous or being ill at the time of your scheduled vaccination.
Flu has a high mutation rate therefore the flu vaccination doesn’t work like most other vaccinations. When you are vaccinated against small pox, for example, you are provided with life-long immunity. A Flu vaccine however, will usually confer protection for no more than a few years.
As Flu reaches its peak prevalence in winter, every year there are two different flu seasons, due to our earth being divided into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The WHO (World Health Organization) makes recommendations for two different influenza vaccines every year; one for each hemisphere. Predicting the strains of flu that will likely be present in each hemisphere, each year requires large volumes of time consuming research performed by National Influenza Centers.
It takes pharmaceutical companies and their manufacturers around six months to produce the millions of doses needed for the population; occasionally, a new or overlooked strain will have become prominent during that time, rendering the new vaccination redundant.
Having read and digested this information, you should now feel better equipped to tell the difference between the Common Cold and an Influenza infection.
Knowing the symptoms, basic treatment and preventative measures will all play a role in keeping you healthy this flu season.
This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Please consult with your healthcare professional.
Ride and Tone your Way to Good Health with the Stamina Exercise Bike and Strength System. The easy-to-do, at- home exercise regimen.
Is the thought of attempting an at-home exercise regimen completely overwhelming? If so, let me help you get started. I'm going to give you a few tips on how to begin and why the Stamina Exercise Bike and Strength System is a great place to start.
If you consider yourself a novice exerciser and you're just starting out on an exercise regimen, your first step is to create a personal mission statement for yourself. Be able to clearly tell yourself why you are beginning this health and fitness journey. Is it weight-loss or doctor-directed? Are you determined to bounce back from a recent surgery? Maybe you are just tired of moving through the day with low energy and feeling unhealthy in your body. Without a clear mission, your motivation will waiver and you will lose focus and give up. Figure out your mission.
FINDING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Next, you'll want to find at-home fitness equipment that supports your personal mission. Make sure the equipment is a worthwhile investment that you will enjoy, that's easy to do, and something you can commit to for the long-term.
As a personal trainer, I highly recommend starting with a recumbent stationary bike. Comfortable and exceptionally easy-to-use, recumbent bikes are the perfect machines for beginners to use if you want to lose weight or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle. Known for their exceptional level of comfort, these machines are particularly great for someone with back, knee, or joint problems that make other exercises, like running or even walking, too difficult. And it definitely gives you an edge by taking the weight off your hips and back.
As someone who has experienced a number of health setbacks, but not the fighting spirit , I had the chance to catch up with Lou Cookson; Cyclist Trainer, Fitness Coach, and Triathlete Fanatic. Here's what he had to say:
Q&A WITH LOU COOKSON:
Devin: As someone who has had many sports-related injuries, how has cycling helped you get back in great shape? If I am overcoming an injury, do you think a stationary recumbent bike would be beneficial for me?
Lou: Every physical therapy facility would not be complete without at least one recumbent bike. There are multiple reasons for this. First, cycling is a non-weight bearing sport; so no matter what a person's injury there is a very good chance they will be able to use a recumbent bike to exercise the largest and most important muscles in the body (legs, glutes and hip flexors).
Second, a recumbent bike is more user-friendly then a regular stationary bike because it supports the back. This is important for people who have had back, neck or upper body injuries. On a normal stationary bike the person needs to sit upright supporting the upper body with the arms and shoulders. The back is not supported on this type of bike, which places more stress on the back, especially the lower back.
Third, because the person is sitting down with the back supported they could multitask and use dumbbells to work their upper body while working their legs. Using more muscles in this manor would burn more calories then just working the legs alone.
Devin: If I am new to exercise and totally new to using a stationary recumbent bike at home, how long do you suggest I use it for and how many times per week?
Lou: A beginner can mean many things. There are a few variables which need to be considered, such as age, lifestyle and physical limitations. All such things should be considered before starting any exercise program. A doctor's examination and clearance should occur before a person begins a new exercise program. Even if a person considers themselves young and healthy they should start off very easy with both the amount of duration and resistance.
I would suggest a person do no more then 15 to 20 minutes at an easy resistance and see how the body reacts. Wait about two days because you can experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is the ache and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise. The soreness is felt most strongly 24 to 72 hours after the exercise.
Devin: What is it about cycling/biking that people like yourself love so much?
Lou: Everyone has different reasons to take up cycling. There are almost as many reasons for cycling as there are different kinds of bicycles and cyclists. Maybe you've got your 80-year-old grandmother cruising at 5 MPH on her $100.00 beach cruiser or your 25-year-old going 30 MPH on their $15,000.00 carbon fiber racing bike!
There are many ex-runners which take up cycling after they wear their joints out from the pounding of running. And cycling is an easy and cost-effective way of exercising and staying active.
For me I enjoy the competition of racing and seeing how hard I can push myself and how fast I can go. There is no better "rush" then going 50+ MPH down a hill with nothing more then a dime size contact point on the road of 2 small tires and your head just a few feet off the ground.
Devin: Is it important to add resistance training to my cycling workout?
Lou: ABSOLUTELY. In order to be a good cyclists you need to have a good power-to-weight ratio. Your muscles are your engine making your vehicle (bike) go. Not only will resistance training allow you to develop a more powerful engine, but it will allow you to go farther and faster. Stronger muscles mean they are working at a lower effort level. This means less lactic acid and other waste byproducts are produced in the muscles during the ride allowing you to go farther, faster and minimize recovery time between rides.
An even more important reason for resistance training is the stronger the muscles are, the stronger the ligaments and tendons will be. It is in the ligaments and tendons where most of the serious overuse injuries occur. In addition, cyclists who only bike are subject to muscular imbalances, which can lead to postural problems and injuries, due to the fact the non-biking muscles groups are not used when biking. Resistance training should be initiated during the off-season so that the legs are ready for the volume and intensity of the rides. Resistance training should include not only the obvious bike specific leg muscles but also the abductors, abductors, ankles, core and upper body which all contribute to biking and good overall muscular symmetry.
Read more about his personal story here. It's worth the read!
I hope you find Lou's story inspiring, especially if you have physical and health limitations due to age or injury. If you are overweight, it provides a low-impact, yet effective training session that will burn fat, strengthen and tone muscle, and increase cardiovascular endurance. There's also the benefit of feeling great and excited after working out with a machine like the recumbent bike. It's been proven that indoor fitness machines such as the recumbent bike tend to increase endorphins that are responsible for a feeling of excitement that eliminates depression. So workout, burn calories, and enjoy the bliss!
THE RIGHT BIKE: THE STAMINA EXERCISE BIKE AND STRENGTH SYSTEM
Something new is just about to hit the market and I must say, it’s fabulous! Yes, it’s the modern-day, stationary, recumbent bike. And we've got it exclusive for you at QVC! Finally a bike that has caught up with our modern-day living and workout style! This is a versatile exercise bike that packs a workout that’s good for the whole body. It works your lower and upper body. Start as a beginner and finish as an athlete. Every fitness level will benefit.
CARDIO + STRENGTH
Traditionally, recumbent bikes have been an effective source of cardio exercise, but not necessarily an effective source for more advanced strength training. With the Stamina Exercise Bike and Strength System, we’ve changed all that and married the benefits of cardio with the benefits of strength training because we want you operating at optimal health.
We’ve added eight levels of magnetic resistance and ankle cuff to help make your ride more challenging to help you tone those muscles in your lower body. We’ve gone beyond the traditional recumbent ride and added a 2-arm, dual pulley system and support bar to give you that upper body and arm workout you’ve been missing. Strengthen and tone your arms, shoulders, chest, and back through exercises like chest presses, curls, and flies. The pulley system makes it so convenient and comfortable to get your upper body workout while on your exercise bike. This 2-arm pulley system can be adjusted to work different muscles, while a digital monitor tracks pedaling progress. After a workout, the versatile home gym folds to take up a small footprint about the size of a nightstand.
FEATURES AT A GLANCE
DON'T MAKE EXERCISE A CHOICE
I urge you not to view exercise as a choice. Doing so gives you an opportunity to opt out when things get tough and it might prove costly to your health.
There are plenty of reasons why we don't exercise enough – little to no energy, no time, injuries, health issues, age, cost, or even lack of confidence. However, if you want to improve your health and your outlook on life, you've got to exercise.
Add cardio to get your heart rate up, increase blood circulation, and burn off those excess calories. Add resistance training to tone those muscles and get back some of that muscle mass that we naturally lose as we age. By doing so, you will be physically stronger and often less susceptible to injury.
Accept the fact that physical activity is necessary. And let the Stamina Exercise Bike and Strength System help you take this next step in your health journey.
WHERE TO PURCHASE THE STAMINA EXERCISE BIKE AND STRENGTH SYSTEM
As an On-Air Health and Fitness Expert for QVC, I highly encourage you to shop everything QVC! It's the place for great products, great deals, and great fun! The Stamina Exercise Bike and Strength System is exclusive for QVC and I'll be bringing it to you live on-air this spring. Like my Facebook page and I'll let you know when we've got it on-air!
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
All comments written above are my own opinion and thoughts related to products and companies that I love and enjoy.
Health & Wellness Expert - Health, Fitness, Wellness, Beauty