HomeOpinion & AnalysisHealth talk: Flu, colds are common

Health talk: Flu, colds are common

By Johannes Marisa

Many people have exhibited flu-like symptoms in the past few days and the social media speculators were on it again that Covid-19 was now back with the fourth wave.

People should realise that flu can come with epidemics which can leave about 20% of the population sniffing, aching, coughing and running high fevers.

Although many cases of flu can be treated as light, some may progress to complicated disease. People.should not confuse flu with Covid-19 although the symptoms are similar.

What causes flu and common cold?

Flu is caused by influenza viruses type A, B and C, but type C causes symptoms which are less severe. Common cold can be caused by a number of different viruses including rhinoviruses, parainfluenza and seasonal coronaviruses. In general, flu is worse than the common cold.

Many people do not know that influenza can come with outbreaks as well, affecting many people at one time and causing symptoms similar to Covid-19.

It is, therefore, wise to get the correct medical diagnosis unlike believing in self diagnoses which may be misleading and frightening. Seek expert help.

Flu is a viral infection that attacks the respiratory system that includes the nose, throat or the lungs. Influenza is commonly called flu and it can come in outbreaks, which may be deadly. Common cold usually presents with less severe symptoms. Symptoms like stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches are quite common with common cold.

Risk factors

There are risk groups that flu takes advantages on. These include the following:

  • Those below five years, especially the less than six months.
  • Those older than 65 years.
  • The pregnant mothers and up to two weeks after birth.
  • People with chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, liver disease.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.

Symptoms and signs

Symptoms and signs can be confused with Covid-19 symptoms. With Covid-19, there is usually an accompanying sore throat which may be absent in flu. The following are some of the common symptoms and signs:

  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breadth
  • Fever
  • Chills and rigors
  • Aching muscles
  • Headache

For those who have noted something,  the symptoms are similar to Covid-19 as both are viruses. Distinction comes via testing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the standard test for both types of infection.

Please treat flu as an emergency if you notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficult in breathing
  • Cyanosis
  • Persistent chest pains
  • Dehydration
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizures
  • Worsening of existing medical conditions

You have to visit your clinician for further action. The viral infection can worsen or complicate to give conditions such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Heart problems
  • Ear infections
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome

Do not, therefore, delay to seek medical attention if signs are pointing to obvious complications because it may be very fatal.

Since the virus can spread from one source to another, it is imperative to realise that our hands are very important in the control of infections.

The following are some of the common measures that can be followed in order to reduce transmission:

  • Hand-washing especially with running soapy water. Sanitisation can be done but with alcohol-based sanitisers. Washing with soap should be for duration of not less than 20 seconds.
  • Avoid unnecessary touching of mucous membranes like mouth, eyes or nostrils as infection can be easily introduced to the body.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes so that you avoid transmission to the next person. You can cough into the axilla so that droplets do not fly to the next person.
  • Avoid crowds as infection can be fast with large gatherings.
  • Flu vaccine has been used worldwide and has proved to be of use to the control of flu.


Diagnosis of flu will depend on the available symptoms and signs. Proper history taking should be done in order not to miss the diagnosis.

  • Nasal swabs can be taken for PCR. The virus can be isolated and distinction with Covid-19 is made.

Other supporting investigations include doing chest X-ray, doing full blood count, ESR, C-reactive protein.


Viruses have no cure but they can be suppressed and their effects will be mitigated against. The following measures are common with flu:

  • Lots of oral fluids
  • Rest
  • Symptomatic management of the condition with drugs like painkillers being taken into the fray.
  • For those with dehydration,  they need intravenous fluids
  • There are anti-virals that are used in other cases and these include Tamiflu, Zanamivir, Peramivir and many more.

Do not take chances if you suspect progression of disease. Congested places are high risk as there may be fast spread of the virus in such places which include schools, beerhalls, churches.

The good news is that the same public health measures for Covid-19 are the same measures that contain the flu. Mask up, sanitise, wash your hands and the virus is kept away.

Be careful about flu as it is already spreading fast especially amongst school children. It can be very fatal so seek early medical attention to avoid complications.

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