Cold or Flu? Here’s what to do...

We’ve all had those mornings, you wake with your shoulders hunched up around your ears, every muscle in your body aches, you feel soooo tired... oh dear, cold and flu season is upon us or it could just be Monday morning and the thoughts of facing a new week of school runs and work has you curled up into the foetal position. 

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When most people think they’re ‘getting the flu’, what they are really experiencing is the ‘winter cold’ . (Except you guys, ‘man-flu’ is ten times worse and therefore will get a blog post all of it’s own...promise) But surely something so common couldn’t hurt this much? Yes it does!

The common cold is a viral infection which primarily affects the nose, throat, sinuses and sometimes the larynx. Symptoms include: a sore throat, sneezing, a blocked or runny nose which starts out clear before becoming thicker and darker as the infection runs its course. (Green mucus does not indicate a bacterial infection, it just means your nose is inflamed and irritated and trying to fight the virus. Antibiotics won’t help and taking them unnecessarily means they may not work when you actually need them.) A cold should clear within a week, however, if a cough or a sore throat is part of the package, this little nuisance could hang around for up to three weeks, so keep the lozenges handy.

Influenza or the ‘flu’, is another contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. Although symptoms may be similar, they are usually accompanied by severe muscle ache and pounding headaches. You may feel extremely weak and the thoughts of getting out of bed may actually make you weep.  For most people, the flu is just a nasty inconvenience but for others it can lead to more serious illness, the most common being pneumonia. It can also exacerbate existing conditions like asthma, COPD and heart failure. The HSE recommend those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people with a chronic medical condition or a weakened immune system, get the flu vaccine which is available free of charge from your doctor. Like it’s nasty cousin the cold, the flu is a virus which cannot be treated by antibiotics, you’ve just got to hit the hay and let it run its course. 

Here are some tips to get you through those delirious days:

AVOID EVERYONE:  Oh the chance would be a fine thing but like most Jinga’s you’re lucky to be left alone for five minutes, never mind the recommended five days while you’re contagious. Reduce the spread of germs by coughing and sneezing into a tissue, binning it  straight away and washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer immediately afterwards.

RELAX: I know, who has the time to do that? But now is the time to pull in all those favours, Jinga’s. Pass off the school or creche run. Ring in sick to work, your colleagues will be horrified by your red runny nose and flinch every time you sneeze anyway. The world can and will survive without you for a day or two and frankly, nobody likes a martyr. Go home, get out the fleece pyjamas Auntie Vera insists on buying you every Christmas from Penneys, pull on a pair of thick socks, grab a hot water bottle and bury yourself under the duvet to sweat that sickness out of you the old fashioned way. This is your chance for uninterrupted sleep and when was the last time that happened? 

GET RID OF GADGETS: Scrolling through social media on our smartphones makes us feel queasy at the best of times but there is evidence to suggest if you’re feeling ill, it can actually increase nausea. Ditto for work emails pinging into your inbox, increasing anxiety and making you feel so guilty, you’ll soon be reaching for the laptop to see how you can ‘help’ from home. You are supposed to be resting! Keep the lighting low to promote relaxation and sleep and take a tech break, unless of course you are watching TV, then by all means pick a programme you’ve been meaning to catch up on and get through the entire series if it keeps you in bed all day.

FILL UP YOUR CUDDLE MUG: Drinking warm fluids like soup, broths, tea and hot water with added honey and lemon, help soothe sore throats and painful coughs. Ibuprofen and paracetamol can reduce fevers and release tension in aching muscles, while some swear supplements like Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea can shave a day off your sick leave. Last but not least, indulge in chocolate - yes, you heard me right! Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which is believed to help fight the symptoms of the common cold. I can’t find the scientific research to back this up but go with me on this one, there has to be a silver lining to being sick and everyone deserves a day of tea, chocolate and Netflix now again. From one Jinga Mom to another, mind yourself. x

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Follow up with some tips and tricks from our cold and flu infographic...