About colds and seasonal influenza
The common cold
Sooner or later, everyone gets a cold. In fact, the average person gets between one and six each year.
Typical symptoms include fever, sore throat, headaches, nasal congestion, and cough; these can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Colds are caused by one of more than 200 different viruses, transmitted through close contact with an infected person.
Each year, several varieties of viruses that cause influenza circulate throughout the world. They’re spread during close human contact, by the coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Spread happens more frequently in the winter months, when people are indoors.
Symptoms of seasonal flu are similar to those of colds, but more severe. They usually start with a high fever, shaking chills and intense muscle aches, followed by headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough and weakness.
To help prevent colds and flu, wash your hands often, eat nutritiously, rest, avoid crowds and minimize close contact with people who are sick.
Seasonal influenza may also be prevented with immunizations. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations about what vaccines you should receive.
People with any type of flu should drink plenty of fluids, rest, eat healthy foods, wash their hands frequently and stay home to avoid spreading the flu to other people. Prescription antiviral medications may also be used, but need to be started within 48 hours of the first symptoms.
Antibiotics do not treat viruses and are of no benefit for colds. Influenza can be treated with antiviral medication if it’s early in the illness.
If you have flu symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
Learn more with these helpful treatment tips.
More about colds and flu.
Cold and flu FAQs
Learn more about these common illnesses with these FAQs.
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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has timely information on flu. Visit the website.