By Vogel Bros. Safety Department

This time of year brings great things – like the holidays, time with friends and family, and snow/ice for winter recreation. But this time of year also brings some not so great things – like colds, flu bugs and other illnesses. Probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of workplace safety, but it is important to remember that an employee’s health can play an important role in how they safely perform their work. The National Safety Council has the following advice for keeping you and your family healthy and safe this time of year.

Influenza and a cold share numerous symptoms, but they also share two vital remedies. “With both colds and flus alike, I remind families the best thing you can do is rest and [drink] fluids,” said Kelsey Sorvick, a registered nurse at Penfield Children’s Center in Milwaukee. “Pushing fluids is especially important for little ones because they can become dehydrated so, so quickly.” Although seasonal influenza, or flu, viruses are detected throughout the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the flu season can peak anytime from October through March. The number of infections and hospitalizations may fluctuate, but cold and flu symptoms don’t. Do you feel like you’re coming down with the flu or is it simply a cold? Check out the similarities and differences among symptoms, as well as some tips to help you begin feeling better.

Cold vs. Flu:
First of all, self-diagnosis isn’t recommended: “Don’t try to diagnose yourself with the flu. If you’re concerned about your symptoms and not getting better, definitely go see a doctor,” Sorvick said. Whether you’re suffering from a cold or the flu, rest is key to getting well again. “The more rest you get, the more likely your immune system can kind of play catch-up.”

Similarities

  • Both are caused by viruses.
  • Both affect the respiratory system (nose, throat, windpipe and lungs).
  • Both typically go away on their own.

Differences

  • Cold symptoms are usually less severe and gradually develop over a few days. Flu symptoms are usually more severe and come on quickly.
  • Fevers and chills are fairly common with the flu, but uncommon with a cold.
  • Sneezing, stuffy nose and sore throat are common with the cold, but uncommon with a flu.
  • A hacking, productive cough may be present with a cold. A dry, unproductive cough is present with the flu.
  • With a cold, sickness is mainly felt in the head and nose. With the flu, severe body aches, headaches and pain are common.
  • No vaccines are available for colds, but a vaccine is available for the flu. The CDC recommends most people 6 months and older get an annual flu shot.

Cold Treatments

  • Plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids, such as juice and clear broth
  • Over-the-counter cold medications
  • Saline nasal sprays
  • Salt water gargle (one-half teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water)

Flu Treatments

  • Antiviral medications as prescribed by a physician
  • Plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids, such as juice and clear broth

How to Avoid Colds and Flu

  • Get a flu vaccine annually
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and maintain a safe distance from others when you’re sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or the crook of your arm, when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hand soften, using soap and warm water for 20 seconds. You also can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Be mindful that the flu virus can spread when someone touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth after coming in contact with someone who has the flu virus.
  • Maintain a health lifestyle by eating nutritious food, drinking fluids, staying physically active and getting adequate sleep.

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As posted by the National Safety Council, Winter 2016