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Dec 2013
Diary of a cold: From the first sniffle to the last sneeze
Diary of a cold: From the first sniffle to the last sneeze A BLOCKED nose, sore throat and sneezing fits are all tell-tale signs of a cold or flu, but what do you do when you start suffering these symptoms? SELF TREAT A new campaign is urging people to treat their colds at home SELF-TREAT: A new campaign is urging people to treat their colds at home [GETTY ] Icy winds and plunging temperatures have been forecast for the festive period, and while the frosty weather adds to the magic it can also give your health a battering, as cold conditions lower the immune system. New research, by treatyourselfbetter.co.uk, revealed that colds and flu have ruined Christmas for over half the population, and this year could see an estimated 2.5million people affected. The survey was conducted as part of a campaign, backed by the Department of Health and Public Health England, aimed to educate sufferers on how to best look after themselves when they have a cold or flu. The aim is to reduce unnecessary visits to their GP, which costs the NHS £35.2 million a year. Visits are largely due to people failing to understand the use of antibiotics and not having the awareness of what symptoms to expect and how long they should last. More than three million Brits waste in excess of a full working week pursuing unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions from their GP when they don't actually work on viral infections. There is no ‘cure’ but you can treat the symptoms with some practical self-help measures and over-the-counter medicines (sold without a prescription) which don’t require a trip to your GP. Your pharmacist can advise on what medicines are best for you. Here we will explain the process of the common cold and flu and tell you how to treat the symptoms at home so you don't have to waste your time trekking to the doctors. symptoms, cold, fluids, WRAP UP: If you start suffering from cold/flu symptoms rest in bed and drink plenty of fluids. A strong sneeze can travel the length of a bus or tube carriage and you may have picked up your cold or flu inhaling infected droplets from someone else’s sneeze in this kind of environment DAY 1-2 Symptoms Flu: High temperature, shivering with a headache, muscle aches in your back and legs and dizziness. The high temperature should go down within 48 hours. Cold: This is the incubation stage (the time between catching an infection and symptoms appearing) there are no symptoms to tell you that you have contracted a cold virus. What's happening to your body? A strong sneeze can travel the length of a bus or tube carriage and you may have picked up your cold or flu inhaling infected droplets from someone else’s sneeze in this kind of environment. The virus contained in those droplets has got past your body's first line of defence – the hairs and mucus in the nose, which traps them – or you have introduced them by touching your nose or eyes after being in contact with someone with a cold or flu.The virus is taking over your cells and using them to reproduce by the million. What you can do: •Get plenty of rest, preferably in bed. •Drink plenty of fluids. •Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce your temperature and ease aches and pains. DAY 2-3 Symptoms Flu: Your temperature should be dropping and from now on your symptoms should be similar to a cold. Cold: The first signs appear on day 2 and include tickle or soreness in the nose and/or throat and sometimes the eyes. What's happening to your body? Cells in the nose and throat release chemicals to defend you against the virus. These chemicals irritate the cells and cause itchiness and soreness and make you sneeze. By now a large number of cells have been killed off by the virus and the nose produces a watery mucus to wash them out. Killing off the virus takes a lot out of you, and you will feel tired and unwell. What you can do: •It’s probably best to stay at home to avoid spreading your cold to others. •Take it easy and rest if possible. •Keep warm and keep the atmosphere moist. •Drink plenty of fluids, as you will lose a lot through mucus production and possibly perspiration. •You could take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce your temperature. •If your throat is very sore take a cough lozenge or use a spray. •Avoid smoking, as it will further irritate the throat and the lining of the nose. cold, flu, treatment, 4-5 days, SIT IT OUT: Most symptoms will be gone in 4-5 days but it can take up to 10 sometimes longer DAY 3-5 Symptoms The discharge from the nose may change from clear and watery to thicker and yellowish in colour. Your nose starts to feel very stuffy and blocked up, and you might get pain in the forehead and around and behind the eyes. If the infection is a really nasty one adults may still have a slight fever. What's happening to your body? Catarrh is a mixture of mucus and white blood cells produced to fight off infections. It drips from the nasal passage into the throat causing a phlegmy, chesty cough as the body tries to get rid of the catarrh. The tissues in the windpipe also get congested, so that air passes through less easily and you could become wheezy. What you can do: •Continue to drink plenty of fluids. •You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you still have a temperature. •Use steam inhalations to make the mucus in your nose and chest more liquid and help get rid of it. •A cough is a normal function of the body as it tries to get rid of phlegm. It can be relieved with a cool drink but if it continues to be •troublesome, a range of cough mixtures are available. •Sleep with your head on a high pillow if your nose is stuffed up at night. DAY 5-14+ Symptoms They usually start to subside but can last two weeks, sometimes a bit longer. Understanding this time frame, coupled with knowing what warning signs to look out for should stop unnecessary visits to your GP. When to seek medical advice: Most cold and flu symptoms can be treated without a trip to your GP. If you display any warning signs, seek medical advice. View warning signs here. What's happening to your body? The virus has been defeated. It is now just a matter of time until things get back to normal. but it may be a couple of weeks until the symptoms have subsided. What you can do: •Go back to your normal activities. •Keep on with medication if you need to, until the symptoms have gone completely. Warning signs, which may suggest that your symptoms could be caused by a more serious underlying condition, include a high temperature above 39°C that does not come down even if you take ibuprofen and/or paracetamol, sharp chest pain, difficulty breathing, blood-stained phlegm or a swelling of the glands in the neck and/or armpits.
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