Flu, cold or stomach flu – which is it?
You may be wondering: Do I have the flu, or stomach flu, or just a cold? Contrary to popular belief, the “stomach flu”, which is the general term used to describe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, is not actually caused by influenza. Influenza is a respiratory virus, meaning it affects your lungs and chest, not your stomach.
Although they can seem similar, a common cold causes a runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, a sore throat and is much less serious than a flu. The greatest distinguishing factor between the two is the gradual onset of a cold as opposed to the sudden feeling of severe sickness caused by the flu. In fact, an influenza infection can sideline you from school and work for up to two weeks!
What is influenza then, and what is the big deal?
The “flu” (short for influenza) is caused by the influenza virus, which invades your nose, throat and lungs. This is also how the virus spreads from person to person. All the lovely folks you see coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose around you are victims to the virus’ diabolical strategy of infecting as many people as it can, as quickly as it can.
Picture this: You’re on a bus and someone has just sneezed beside you. You may not know this, but it’s likely you were unfortunate enough to inhale a good dose of your neighbour’s respiratory droplets. Depending on your health and immune status, you may be in for a rough ride of sudden onset fever (>38 *C), coughing, headaches, sore throat, runny nose, weakness and fatigue that can sometimes last two weeks or longer. Another characteristic feature of the flu, commonly described as the feeling of “getting hit by a truck”, is severe muscle and joint pain. It is also important to note that children may show somewhat different symptoms of influenza than adults (such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting), as well as the symptoms listed above.
Why a flu vaccine?
A flu vaccine is the best known way to prevent you from the most common types of flu. That being said, it does not provide a 100% guarantee that you will not get the flu. Find out why and how effective the flu vaccine is in our following blog!
Check out our following blogs to learn about how the flu vaccine is manufactured, benefits of getting the flu vaccine and more interesting information as well as flu clinic dates.
From Health Services Practicum Nursing Students Thomas and Alexis