1. What is the difference between a cold and influenza? 2. Can cold weather cause a common cold? 3. Can vitamin C help prevent a cold? 4. What causes pain during a bout of influenza or a cold? 5. Can a person with the flu transmit it even before the symptoms appear? 6. Are antibiotics useful for treating influenza? 7. Can influenza viruses also affect animals? 8. Why are there different influenza vaccines every year? 9. Who should be vaccinated against influenza? 10. Which type of medications are most indicated for treating influenza?
1. What is the difference between a cold and influenza?Both are viral infections of the respiratory tract, but they differ in type, intensity, severity and duration of symptoms. Flu symptoms are more severe and appear suddenly, while those of a cold are milder and come on more gradually. The complications that can develop differ as well--those associated with influenza are more severe (bronchitis or pneumonia). Back to top
2. Can cold weather cause a common cold?No. Many people believe that a cold is caused by cold weather. But actually that is not true. Cold weather simply helps the virus enter the nasal passages. Cold temperatures block the protective action of the small hairs that line the nasal passages. In this way, the virus can penetrate the respiratory tract. Most viruses survive better when the humidity is low, which occurs during the colder months of the year. Back to top
3. Can vitamin C help prevent a cold?Many people are convinced that vitamin C can help prevent colds. Actually, its effectiveness in preventing colds has not yet been definitively proven. However, vitamin C may be useful in treating a cold, because it may help to relieve the symptoms a cold produces. Back to top
4. What causes pain during a bout of influenza or a cold?Cold and flu symptoms are our immune system's response to the viral infection. The viral infection stimulates the release of certain substances by the body which, in turn, stimulate the nerve endings responsible for pain. Back to top
5. Can a person with the flu transmit it even before the symptoms appear?Influenza viruses are transported by tiny droplets. The droplets are dispersed in the air with coughs and sneezes. So, in general, the infection can be spread by anyone with the usual symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, etc.). Sometimes the virus can spread even before symptoms appear. But this occurs only through close contact, such as sharing the same glasses, towels, cutlery, etc. Back to top
6. Are antibiotics useful for treating influenza?No. Influenza is caused by viruses and not by bacteria, so antibiotics are not useful for treating influenza. Antibiotics should be taken only in cases of secondary infection due to bacteria. Back to top
7. Can influenza viruses also affect animals?Yes. Influenza viruses belonging to the Orthomyxovirus family, can affect both humans and animals alike. Back to top
8. Why are there different influenza vaccines every year?Influenza viruses continuously evolve. That is why new influenza vaccines are developed every year. The vaccine stimulates the production of specific antibodies that attack the virus. If the virus strain is recent, the antibodies are no longer effective against it. Back to top
9. Who should be vaccinated against influenza?Vaccination is useful for persons at risk, especially the elderly, children, individuals with chronic diseases, and anyone working in places where the virus can spread easily (offices, hospitals, schools, etc.). Back to top
10. Which type of medications are most indicated for treating influenza?Flu symptoms can be treated with anti-inflammatory and antipyretic agents. The most commonly used are those based on acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. Cough remedies and expectorants can be taken to relieve other specific symptoms. Back to top
Note: Concerns about Reye?s Syndrome, a rare but severe illness, are primarily related to use for viral infections in children and teenagers. In these groups, aspirin should not be used to treat flu-related pain and fever.