Welcome to our first winter wellness series!

Cold and flu occur all year round but they are especially common during the winter months. People tend to be more susceptible to getting sick during this time of year and sequentially have more days off work or school. So what exactly is it about the winter that gives us congestion and snottiness. Is winter chills the culprit? In this post we have asked one of our pharmacists- Chris to explain the myth of winter chills. Can cold weather make us sick?

Chris: Cold weather can play a part in making us feel unwell. This is because blood vessels constrict when exposed to cold temperature which can reduce blood flow. This could potentially weaken our immune system due to fewer white blood cells at each round of circulation. However, cold weather alone will not make us sick without the presence of harmful bacteria and viruses. Harmful bacteria and viruses are spread through transmission. During winter times, we are more likely to stay indoors, be less active, eat more to keep warm and come in close contact with family and friends. All these factors contribute to making it easier to catch a cold or flu compared to other times of the year. In our second post of the series, we will discover the difference between cold and flu.

Cold vs Flu – Know The Facts

Imagine yourself waking up one day sneezing, coughing, shivering, aching with a feeling in your throat like swallowing sand paper. How do you know if you have a cold or the flu? I do get asked this by patients and customers a lot during the winter season and I believe it’s important to know the difference between cold and flu symptoms. Some people think that a cold is less severe and is caused by bacteria, while others think that a flu is seasonal and cannot be prevented. Some even argue that the worst type of flu is the man flu!! 😉 Above all, the rule of thumb is that a cold is generally milder than the flu. Whilst cold symptoms usually persist for a few days, flu symptoms can linger for longer and can make you feel ill for weeks. Surprisingly, a lot of people might not know that cold symptoms are also caused by viruses. Rhinovirus and adenovirus are usually the causes of the common cold. Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu is a viral infection caused by influenza virus.

What are common cold symptoms and how long do they last? The common cold usually starts off with a sore throat which typically lasts for a couple of days. This is followed by nasal symptoms such as runny and blocked nose along with a tickly cough by day 5. Fever is not usually present in adults when suffering from a cold but a slight fever is possible. Fever is usually more common in children with a cold. Cold symptoms usually last for a week and the first 2 to 3 days is the most infectious stage, so it is advisable to avoid close contact with others. If cold symptoms last longer than a week, it can mean that you have a bacterial infection and hence a doctor’s visit is necessary.

What are common flu symptoms? Flu is usually more severe than the common cold. Symptoms of flu typically consist of sore throat, congestion, cough, headache, fever and body aches. Swine flu in particular can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Flu symptoms usually gradually improve over a week but it is not uncommon that a flu can last for weeks. High risk populations such as elderly, people with long term conditions, asthmatic patients and young children are at greater risk of developing complications such pneumonia and bronchitis. Both the cold and influenza virus are airborne and can be easily transmitted into our body through the mucus membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes. Every time we touch any of these 3 areas with our hands, we could potentially infect ourselves with a virus. Hence, it is crucial that we wash our hands on a regular basis to prevent cold and flu symptoms.